Nokia’s Chennai plant closure hurts Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign

November 26, 2014 at 1:13 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Requiem for Nokia’s Chennai plant — Will it impact Modi’s ‘Make in India’ push

by Ansuman Tripathy

The world has moved quite fast from the low-end, low-cost handsets to the era of feature-packed, flashy Smartphones. No one can guess what startling innovations await the users of cell phones in future. The Chennai-assembled low-end, but robust mobile phones will fade into history soon. Nokia’s Chennai facility, once a show piece of India’s prowess in low- tech, high-volume assembly business has downed its shutters, most likely, for good.

Nokia sold its mobile phones business to Microsoft, but the later refused to buy the Chennai plant as it was mired in a huge tax dispute with the Indian government. The two-decade dominance of Chennai-made handsets is over. The plant is dead. Now is the time for the requiem.

Nokia has remained the market leader among the popular brands of cell phones for a very long period. Its dominance cut across geographies, cultural barriers and trading blocks. But it will cease to be so as smartphones of competing brands make their foray into the fiercely competitive market in the coming years. Microsoft, now the owner of Nokia’s device business, has shied away from taking over the highly successful handset business in India.

In April, 2014, the IT behemoth Microsoft bought Nokia’s plants in different locations around the world, along with the right to use the Nokia brand. After acquiring Nokia, Microsoft will use the Nokia brand for 10 more years for the feature phones. Microsoft has decided to re-brand the highly popular Nokia Lumia smartphones as Microsoft Lumia smartphones.

India’s discerning consumers look for products of high quality at low price. Nokia’s handsets ideally suited these buyers. In respect of durability, Nokia has hardly any rival, even today. These phones seldom break when users drop them accidentally.

Nokia is more than a brand. It is an icon. The Chennai plant rivalled China’s plants with regard to high productivity at low cost. Instead of heralding India’s foray into world’s outsourced manufacturing market, the Nokia plant’s closure has proved to be a huge dampener to Modi’s plans to bring in foreign companies to set up shops here. It would take considerable effort on the part of the Indian government to neutralize the negative publicity created by the Nokia closure. Hopefully, Modi’s ‘Made in India’ push will not be dented by this sad demise of a brilliant success story.

Buying a Microsoft Lumia is just not the same as buying a Nokia Lumia. Nostalgia, sentiment, and emotion associated with Nokia have carved a place for this name in the hearts of scores of its users. The memory of Nokia (Chennai) will live on.

Ansuman Tripathy is a freelance  writer. He can be reached at atripathy331@gmail.com
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NCERT Class X -Social Science -Nationalist Movement in Indo-China

November 25, 2014 at 12:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The Nationalist Movements in Indo-China

1a. Which are the countries in Indo-China? … Cambodia (now Kampuchia), Laos, Vietnam, Thailand (Old name Siam), Burma (now Myanmar), and Malaysia constitute Indo-China. This term was coined by the French who perceived the region to be in the geographical outreach of China and India. Out of these countries, Vietnam has the strongest Chinese imprint in its culture. In rest of the countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia etc. Indian influence is ore discernible.

1b. Why Vietnam matters so much for scholars of national movements? ….Out of these countries of Indo-China, Vietnam, perhaps, suffered the most acute wrenching pain in its evolution in its present form. Foreign rule, colonization, upheavals, insurgency, ideological battles, and deadly wars have punctuated this tiny country’s history. To it goes the credit of defeating the mighty Americans in a protracted war that literally bled both the nations before they got too tired to fight any further. From the two-decade-old war with America (1955 to 1975), Vietnam emerged triumphant, but with deep scars. The war rattled the United States politically, economically and socially. The defeat at the hands of a tiny Asian nation was a chastening experience for America, the mightiest nation on earth.
Vietnam grappled with myriad problems in its march for sovereignty. Its woes were its deeply entrenched feudal system, its backwardness, the succession of foreign masters, its firebrand nationalists, and its dominant neighbours (China and Japan). The war with America galvanized the nation in a way that left the whole world transfixed in awe and wonder. This is why no study of Indo-China can be complete without a full appreciation of Vietnam’s sacrifices and indomitable spirit.

1c. What Vietnam gained from colonization?… Vietnam gained freedom in 1945, two years ahead of India. But, the euphoria was short-lived. It had to fight another bloody and protracted war before emerging as a full-fledged republic. The country was under colonial domination for long periods of its history. The foreign masters were China, France, Japan and finally America. The French had tried to modernize the country and better it economically. But their motive was mainly to exploit its resources. Their efforts to modernize Vietnamese society were ill-conceived, insensitive and disruptive. Other colonial masters did little good to Vietnam. However, Vietnam also gained from the colonial subjugation. Its disparate communities did not break away to become smaller countries. The colonial rule held them together, and enforced political unity of Vietnam.

1d. Comparison with India’s freedom struggle .. India’s experience with its British colonial masters was quite different from the way the French dealt with their colonies in Indo-China. Similarly, India’s struggle to shake off imperial domination was quite different from the anti-imperialist struggle in Indo-China. A comparative study of the two freedom struggles makes interesting reading.

1e. The Chinese shadow over Vietnam …. Since medieval times, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were under the Chinese umbrella. The powerful emperor of China ruled these countries. The Chinese system was deeply entrenched in these areas. When the north and central parts of Vietnam became free, the rulers chose to stick to the Chinese system with regard to governance, culture, and policy-making. Vietnam was connected by the large labyrinth in-land network that crisscrossed through Asia, Europe and parts of Africa. The silk route also ran through the hinterland of Vietnam where the ethnic group known by the name Khmer Cambodians lived. This road connectivity reduced the risk of isolation from the rest of the world.

2a. Colonial domination and the urge to be free … The Vietnamese common people were ill at ease with the French colonial masters. In matters of culture, religion, philosophy of life and economic standards, the French were so starkly different from their Vietnamese subjects. Co-existence between the two diverse races, one as master and the other as the servants created myriad problems of compatibility and cohesion. There was interminable friction, resentment, and visible demonstration f defiance from the Vietnamese. The French were dismissive, snobbish and condescending towards the Vietnamese whom they perceived to be less civilized and inferior deserving the European touch to see the light of modernity. Such patronizing attitude peeved the Vietnamese intelligentsia who began efforts to rediscover their roots and stand up to the French masters.
As clever colonizers, the French tightened their grip over Vietnam’s military and the commanding heights of the country’s economy. But, it was their efforts to ‘reform’ Vietnamese culture that created the chasm between the rulers and their subjects. Many of the values the French tried to impose on the Vietnamese were repugnant to its traditional society with its deeply-entrenched customs and practices. In course of time, Vietnamese clamour against the colonizers became louder and louder.
France sent in its armed forces to quell the local resistance against them. Between 1858, the year the garrisons landed in Vietnam and 1880, French troops fought well to smother the local resistance. By the middle of 1880, the French had effectively sealed their control over the northern part of Vietnam.

2b. France’s turf war against China …… French intrusion into Indo-China was unwelcome to the Chinese who had exercised power in the region historically. Expectedly, it lead to a war. In the Franco-China war of 1887, the French wrested control over Tonkin and Anaamand from the Chinese. It gave the French a moral boost and a strong foothold in Vietnam. In succeeding years, the French aggressively consolidated their control fighting off Vietnamese opposing forces. The confrontations were often very bloody and destructive. The scars of the battle against the French made rattled the Vietnamese who began to reflect upon the toll the French occupation was taking.
2c. Vietnam reels under the French and revolts … The simmering discontent against the colonial masters and the restive Vietnamese population finally decided to confront the European occupiers. It resulted in an unprecedented upsurge in nationalist sentiments cutting across different strata of the society. The lament of the Vietnamese soul wass best captured in the following lines of the blind poet, Ngyuyen Dinh Chieu (1822-88) in the following lines.
I would rather face eternal darkness
Then see the face of Traitors
I would rather see no man
Than encounter one man’s suffering
I would rather see nothing
Then see the dismembering of the country in decline.

2d. What lured the French to their colonies and the reasons behind the uneasy co-existence? …. The motivations to colonize were two fold. As industrial powers, Europeans’ appetite for natural resources was great. They needed ores, mines, forest produce, crude oil, textiles, spices, metals, and a host of other things to sustain their galloping economies. They needed cheap manpower too to work in menial jobs which their own fellow citizens were reluctant to do.
This apart, they had a strong tendency to look down upon the colonized people as primitive, poor, backward and weak. But, they were only partly right in their conclusions. In their hubris and arrogance, they had failed to see the greatness of the culture they were despising as dark and worthy of disdain. This myopic attitude often prompted them to force the pace of their efforts to reform and reshape the colonized people’s ways of life. The intentions might have been benign, but the methods were high-handed and repressive. This have rise to an adversarial relationship between the French ruling class and the Vietnamese people. The ‘light’ the French wanted to bring to the ‘dark’ civilization proved to be their undoing.

2e. What tangible benefits the colonies got from their French masters? …
a. Intervention in agriculture ….The French were quick to realize that agricultural productivity was low due to a host of reasons. To reverse the situation, they built a network of canals, and reclaimed land in the Mekong Delta to bring more areas under cultivation. French expertise and the local labour who got a pittance as wages for their toil boosted rice production. The surplus rice was exported to customers in Europe and elsewhere.
The area for rice cultivation rose sharply from just 2,74,000 hecters in 1873 to 1.1 million hecters in 1900 to 2.2 million in 1930. Vietnam began to produce almost three times more it needed to feed itself. With the rice bowl overflowing, Vietnam emerged as world’s third largest exporter of this commodity. The credit goes to the French intervention and to the peasantry of Vietnam for the country to such an exalted status.
b. Intervention in infrastructure … Vietnam’s road infrastructure was decrepit when the French took charge of the country. To move goods, troops and exportable commodities to ports, the French built roads, bridges, highways and ports. A rail line to link the northern part of the country to the south was laid. The rail line extended right up to the Chinese border. It was a vital addition to Vietnam’s ramshackle inland transport system. By 1910, the rail line had reached the Chinese city of Yunan.
Another very rail link was built that began from Vietnam, passed through Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh before reaching Thailand (then called Siam).
Easier movement of exportable goods through these road and rail networks yielded higher profits from exports. The French traders pressurized their government in Vietnam to do more to upgrade the country’s infrastructure so as to boost their export business.

2f. How far to go in rebuilding colonies? Dilemma for the French colonial planners … There was near unanimity among the French governing class over the proposition that the colonies must serve their colonizing countries. Avarice underlined this theory. But, the question was the extent to which the colonies needed to be developed.
The renowned thinker and writer Paul Bernard, who held considerable sway over policy matters, felt that the colonies had to be developed so that they aid the colonial powers to maximize their profits. After all, the lure of financial gain had brought them to such far-off alien lands at such enormous costs. A thriving prosperous colony could offer good market for goods produced in the factories back home in France. A captive and expanding market could keep the factories in France buzzing with activity creating more jobs and boosting the government’s revenue receipts.
Bernard applied his mind to list the many impediments to quick resurrection of the ‘sleeping’ Vietnamese economy. These were
a. High population density
b. Rural indebtedness that had reached un-sustainable levels
c. Low farm productivity
To break this vicious circle of low yield, debt and impoverishment, sweeping reforms had to be carried out, similar to what the Japanese had accomplished in the 1890s.

2g. The road map to reform … Vietnam grew two main commodities – Rice and Rubber. The land under such cultivation belonged to the big French land owners, and the bloated Vietnamese elite. It was not easy to disposses them of their lands and give it to the small peasants. The French also were very reluctant to set up manufacturing industries in Vietnam. Such a step could have given a boost to employment creation and rejuvenation of the ‘sleeping’ economy. Bernard’s recommendations to industrialize Vietnam fell in deaf years of the French governing class. Instead, the French allowed the highly degrading system of employing ‘indentured’ labourers in plantations to continue. Landlords thrived in rural areas pushing the peasantry to the brink of deprivation and poverty. Clearly, the reformist zeal petered out and expediency prevailed.

3a. The push for education – What to teach and how much to teach ….

The French took on to themselves the responsibility to dispel darkness from Vietnam’s ‘moribund’ civilization. They assumed that deriving economic benefits from the colonies was paramount, but so was the need to usher in ‘light’ to the subjects ‘condemned’ by history to live in society bedeviled by want, illiteracy, and systems anchored to a primitive past. The ‘civilizing mission’ aimed to modernize the Vietnamese society and rid it of everything that appeared regressive to the French eyes. In this respect, they were so similar to the British masters lording over ‘backward’ India. The British too exhibited extra-ordinary zeal and energy to superimpose their values and practices on India. 

Both the British in India and the French in Vietnam understood that European education could be the most potent tool to ‘enlighten’ their subjects (the ‘natives’) mired in superstition, religious bigotry, poverty and lethargy.

But, for the extra-cautious French, the question was how far to let the Vietnamese absorb European education. Educated Vietnamese were needed to man the colonial administration and keep the export-oriented economic activities going. But, higher education in university level could ‘poison’ the minds of the Vietnamese elites with European ideas about liberty, exploitation, and freedom. This could be very destabilizing in the long run, they feared.

There was another fear too. The French officers, managers and bureaucrats living cozy lives in Vietnam feared competition from educated and gifted Vietnamese. Their jobs were at stake, they feared vainly.

 

3b. Leapfrogging to ‘modernity’ … Introducing French education was the top of the agenda for the colonial administrators. But, bringing in the new system meant dismantling the existing system, which was almost a carbon copy of the Chinese system. The medium was Chinese and the system was Chinese. Almost the entire Vietnamese elite were taught in this system. Thus, the Chinese influence hung heavy over Vietnam’s education. Replacing it would annoy the elite class, who were strong protagonists of the Chinese language and education.

If the French system of education had to be enforced, the Chinese language, the teachers and the schools had to be bid good-bye. But, what would be the new medium of instruction? Adopting Vietnamese would have defeated the whole purpose of reform, where as adopting French would be too drastic. It could create a backlash. A big dilemma stared the French administrators in their face.

Some policy makers felt adopting French would be a desirable option despite the risks of resistance from the local intelligentsia. They felt, through learning French, the young minds of Vietnam would get valuable exposure to France’s vastly superior science, literature, art and culture. They would imbibe French values and live like French-Vietnamese citizens in their own country. The colonizers from Europe would thus be able to extend their ‘soft power’ to Asia. Thus, it would be a win-win situation to both the French and the Vietnamese. France will get a foothold in Asia that could effectively result in an ‘Asiatic France teethered to European France’.

There were others who advocated a softer line. They felt teaching Vietnamese in lower classes and switching to French in higher classes would be a more feasible and acceptable proposition. To encourage love for French language and culture, French citizenship could be given as reward to those students who excelled in French studies and took to French culture.

Sadly for the French, there were few takers for their idea to propagate their language and culture through the medium of schools. Few from the middle and lower classes enrolled in French schools. Only a handful from the elite classes opted to come to French schools. Only a small number of these students eventually completed their school education. The dismal performance of the Vietnamese students in French schools was not due to their lack of intelligence or sincerity. A far more sinister design was behind this. The school authorities deliberately failed students in the final examinations to hold them back from getting the certificates. By adopting this extremely vile tactic, the French intended to curtail the number of local Vietnamese competing for lucrative government jobs. Nearly two third of the local students found their scores tweaked by the school authorities to stifle their career prospects. Out of a population of 17 million, only a miniscule of just 400 Vietnamese students had succeeded to get the final pass certificates.

Concurrently, French language and culture continued to occupy more and more space in school curriculum displacing study of Vietnamese language, history and culture. Under the patronizing eyes of the French administrators, the cultural invasion continued apace. More disgusting was the simultaneous derision of Vietnamese civilization and heritage, almost portraying it as primitive, and lifeless. The Vietnamese were told that they lack mental acumen to acquire finer skills in science and arts. They could just slog in the fields to earn a living. At best they could ‘copy’, but not ‘create’. The French resorted to all sorts deception to drill such inferiority complex into the heads of the Vietnamese.

There was another misleading propaganda to depict the French rule as benign. The French had sternly dealt with bandits and the pirates and had largely curbed this menace. The local population of peasants and fishermen were told that they had escaped harassment by the criminals because of the French rulers.

 3c. The garb of ‘modernity’ through haircutsThe Vietnamese got the first taste of typical French type education through the Tonkin Free School, the first French school to be set up in the colonized country. The school hours were in the evening, and the subjects taught were science, hygiene and French. Each individual course had to be paid for. In many ways, such education was different from that offered by the traditional Vietnamese schools.

As the next step towards imparting French values to the natives, the colonial masters wanted their subjects to look French. They were asked to crop their hair short. The tradition of having long hair was actively discouraged. To drill the idea of ‘short hair’ into the Vietnamese minds, a chant was propagated.

Comb in the left hand

Scissors in the right,

Snip, Snip, Clip, Clip!

Watch out, Be careful,

Drop stupid practices,

Dump childish things

Speak openly and frankly

Study Western customs

 

3d. Backlash starts –from schools .. The curriculum devised by the colonial masters was not openly embraced by the Vietnamese teachers and students. Resistance shimmered among the natives. At times, it erupted in the form of defiance. The number of Vietnamese teachers swelled in the lower classes making it difficult for the French education officials to monitor what was being taught. Utilizing this opportunity, the Vietnamese teachers removed portions from the text books they felt derogatory for Vietnam. They also omitted the portions that blindly sang the praise of the French colonizers and their culture. Thus, glorification of the French at the cost of the local culture was somewhat blocked by the resentful teachers.

In 1926, a major incident happened in the Saigon Native Girls School. A Vietnamese girl occupying a seat in the front bench of a class was asked to cede her seat to a French student sitting in a back bench. The Vietnamese student took it as an affront and refused to oblige. This infuriated the Principal, a French national living in Saigon (A Colon). He expelled the Vietnamese student for her defiance. Some angry students protested in support of the expelled student. They too were expelled. Soon the anger escalated dangerously. Sensing danger, the government stepped in and ordered the Principal to revoke his expulsion order. The Principal was livid. He took back the student, but warned the student in very boorish and vengeful language. Clearly, he was not reconciled to a Vietnamese girl being treated equally with one of his own race.

The student community seethed in anger at the way the French authorities tried to stifle their careers by very unfair means. It was legally untenable and morally repugnant. Their anger soon manifested itself as nationalistic feelings. They saw the injustice and repression of the French colonial masters and rose against it. The French administration was clearly alarmed at the student uprising. Curiously, the local elite, who had historically enjoyed comforts at the cost of the poor classes, were disturbed too. The cry for justice and fair treatment of every one shook their parasitic status. By the 1920s, the student movement had gathered steam. They had formed a party called ‘Party of Young Annan’. They published their mouthpiece journal named ‘Annanese Student’.

Schools became the nerve centers of anti-establishment resistance. New revolutionary political and cultural ideas were fanned by student leaders. The French sought to curb student activism by tightening their grip over the entire educational system. A calculated strategy was put in place to make the students believe in the supremacy and desirability of the French colonial rule. The Vietnamese were told how weak and incapable they were to resurrect themselves without French help.

The Vietnamese intellectuals saw through the sinister attempts of the French of not only dispossessing them of their territory, but also undermining their culture. The ugly face of colonization was unraveling. The unsuspecting citizens were beginning to see the French as benign masters, and themselves as the servants at their service. Soon, the student-centric agitation against the French rule became a nationalistic struggle against colonialism. The clamour for freedom from French rule became more and more strident.

4a. Hygiene, Disease and Everyday Resistance

Resentment against the Colonial rule was not restricted to educational centers alone. Soon, the expression of unease and anger spread to other spheres of daily life.

4b. Plague strikes Hanoi .. The French colonial authorities wanted to showcase their architectural and engineering excellence by re-building a majestic and modern Hanoi. They called in the best of their town planners and poured loads of money to build cozy mansions, large open spaces, wide boulevards and tree-lined avenues to project their colonial legacy and to demonstrate to the natives their superiority as a race. The French quarters of the city had modern sewer systems to transport the waste.

The other older part of the city had few of these amenities. The native poor class Vietnamese lived here. The sewer system was primitive and inadequate. It carried its waste straight into the river. During heavy rains, the sewers were flooded pushing the waste inside to the surface. The roads became awash with the putrid and highly dangerous wastes. It was a crisis in the making.

Whenever the downpour was heavy and prolonged, the whole of Hanoi became flooded. Wastes floated everywhere, spreading dangerously to the luxurious French portions of the city. The modern sewers installed there also got clogged. Germs and rats thrived in the sea of waste. Inevitably, bubonic plague broke out in 19o3. The French administration panicked as rats running through the network of sewer tunnels made their way to the bed rooms of the French elite. It was a harrowing situation for the Europeans who feared the worst.

4c. Reining in the rats .. In 1902, the French launched a drive to fight the rat menace. They announced a cash reward for the natives who caught rats and handed them to the French officials for dumping. Rats were caught in thousands as cash-lured poor natives haunted down the rats and turned them over to the authorities. But, chasing the rats in their safe havens inside the sewer pipes was a dirty and unpleasant work. Some Vietnamese bargained hard with the French authorities for better rates for going inside the sewers and haunt down the rats. The French reluctantly agreed to enhance the rate for the sewer-rats. Paradoxically, like the symbolic Dandi salt march, the ‘rat bargaining’ by the poor natives became first successful demonstration of the power of collective action vis-à-vis the colonial masters.

4c. The rodents and their catchers make the French eat humble pie .. Sadly for the anti-rat campaign managers, the more the rats caught, the more they appeared. Some ingenuous Vietnamese even reared rats in their backyards and exchanged them for cash rewards! The rewards were paid when the catchers handed over the tails of the rats. Some rat-catchers clipped a small tip of the tails and claimed their rewards. In days, the tails of the rats grew again, allowing the rat-rearer to use the same live rat for multiple cash claims.

Finally, the French gave up and discontinued the cash-for-rat scheme. The bubonic plague ravaged Hanoi in 1903 causing scores of deaths and terrifying both the French and the native population. It took some years before the violent epidemic tapered off and normalcy returned.

Though indirectly, the plague’s free run over Hanoi exposed the limits of the French prowess in sanitation, hygiene and medical cure. French claim of superiority took a beating at the hands of the humble rodents! The collective action of Hanoi’s poor rat-catchers out-smarted the mighty French.

5a. Religion and anti-colonialism ….

French colonial shadow hung heavy on all walks of Vietnamese life. They had set foot on Vietnam to conquer it militarily. In this task, they met with success with relative ease. Having assumed control over the colony, the French set about transforming the poor and impoverished land to give it a ‘French’ look. A sweeping effort was made to reform and reshape the culture, religion and living style of the colonized people. The campaign touched almost all walks of Vietnamese life. Religion was the area the French wanted to reform.

During those times, Vietnamese practiced an amalgamation of Buddhism, Confucianism with a sprinkling of local customs, rituals and prejudices. The Christian missionaries who entered Vietnam with their evangelical goals found the local region to be mired in many undesirable beliefs and practices. They felt, the Vietnamese belief that their fate was ordained by the All Mighty robbed them of competitive spirit making them languid and lifeless. The missionaries decided to ‘correct’ such reverence of the supernatural.

Quite predictably, such attempts to undermine their deeply-entrenched religious values met stiff resistance of the Vietnamese people. From eighteenth century onwards, a good number of religious movements took place to resist the French missionaries and assert the desirability of the prevailing religious and spiritual ways. The Scholars Revolt of 1868 was one of these movements. It was spearheaded by some top bureaucrats of the imperial court who abhorred Catholicism and the creeping French control over the country. It led to a bloody confrontation with the Catholics in Ngu An and Ha Tien provinces. Nearly a thousand Catholics were killed in the violent confrontation.

From the seventeenth century, the Catholics had gone on an overdrive to convert as many natives to Christianity as possible. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the number of the converts had swelled to 3,00,000. The French authorities eventually neutralized the leaders of the movement. However, the uprising rekindled nationalist tendencies in an irreversible way.

Chinese influence and Confucianism ran deep among the elite and the affluent classes. But, the peasants practiced a degraded version of Budhism that had many strands of rituals, beliefs and practices. Vietnam had also a surfeit of preachers and godmen who claimed to have seen God. They each had large followings. Thus, Vietnam had no unified religion with uniform practices and doctrines. On the issue of supporting the French, the small groups of religion were divided. Some sided with the Colonial masters, others sided with the nationalists.

5b. Advent of the fringe resistance groups …One such godman was Huynh Phu So who headed the  Hua Hao sect. Started in 1939, it proliferated in the Mekong Delta. There was some convergence between Hoa Hao’s ideology and that of the nationalists. Huyan Phu So could perform miracles swaying hordes of admirers towards him. He advocated thrift and frugal ways of living. He preached against sale of child brides, opium, alcohol and gambling.

Predictably, the French saw the Hua Hao to be hostile to their interests. They tried to suppress the movement. In a desperate move to stifle his voice, the French administrators declared him a lunatic, calling him ‘Mad Bonze’. He was deported to a mental asylum. Curiously, , the doctor, who had pronounced him mad, later became his follower. In 1941, even a French doctor cleared him as ‘normal’. The French deported him to Laos. His followers were sent away to concentration camps to do hard labour in appalling situations.

Resistance movements such as the Hua Hao were not quite in tune with the mainstream nationalist movement. Political parties used these smaller resistance groups as their tools when they needed them, but were uncomfortable with their activist agenda. The main parties failed to bring the groups such as Hua Ho on board. An uneasy relationship continued all along.

However, these fringe groups did dent the imperialist hold over Vietnam.

6a. The Vision of Modernism

The chorous against French domination was heard from all corners of the country and from all strata of Vietnamese society.

But, the anti-imperialism thrust had not crystallized to a single well-defined goal in the initial stages. All agreed that the country had to be ‘modernized’, but few knew what constituted ‘modernity’. The model of the West was fascinating no doubt, but how far to go to go along the route? The ideologues differed.

6b. Same goal—Different routes ……Some intellectuals advocated efforts to resurrect traditional Vietnamese values and culture. A strident nationalistic spirit underlined their stand.

A few others were of the view that it would be wise to adopt certain features of the Western culture while continuing to regenerate the moth-balled Vietnamese culture.

By the nineteenth century, intellectuals imbibed with Confucian teachings were the vanguard of the anti-imperialist nationalist movement. But, their role and influence was in the wane. Phan Boi Chau (1867-1940), was one of the leading figures of the Confucian school. He formed a revolutionary society named Duy Tan Hoi in 1903. Prince Cuong De headed the society.

Phan Boi Chau came in contact with the renowned Chinese reformist thinker Liang Quichao (1873-1929) in Yokohama in 1905. The latter had provided and inspiration for Phan’s seminal work “The History of the Loss of Vietnam.” This book was highly acclaimed by the readers in China and Vioetnam. It was also made into a play. The book deals with the loss of sovereignty & the weakening of ties with China. These are the two sad turns of history that the elites of both countries bemoaned.

Mr. Phan Boi Chau had many antagonists too whose views contrasted sharply with his. One among them was Phan Chu Trin (1871-1926). He was a known ctitic of the Vietnamese royalty. He could not reconcile to the suggestion to take the help of the Imperial Court in the anti-French struggle. He advocated the establishment of a democratic republic. He was more amenable to the western concepts of governance and values and wanted to adopt parts of them in shaping Vietnam’s future destiny. He suggested more French involvement in modernizing  Vietnam’s creaking infrastructure and primitive agriculture.

6c. Alternative models of ‘modernity’—Looking at China and Japan …….

In its nascent stage, Vietnam’s nationalists drew inspiration from the two powerful neighbours – Japan and China. Both provided not only inspiration for the Vietnamese activists, but also safe havens for those nationalists trying to evade arrest by the French colonial administration. The two countries became the nerve centers of the ideologues, revolutionaries and political workers trying to free Vietnam from French yoke.

In the early part of twentieth century, the mantra of the Vietnamese nationalists was to increasingly look to ‘east’ for succor. As a result, the ‘go east movement’ became more strident. In 1907-08, a batch of 300 young Vietnamese students left for Japan for higher education. They were gripped by patriotic fervor. Making Vietnam a free, democratic, and vibrant country leveraging their Japanese education was their motto. Their aim was to equip themselves with the improved science and technology that had propelled to such heights. They loathed the puppet emperor who had cohabited with the French colonialists to enjoy the throne. The students wanted to reinstate the Nguyen dynasty deposed by the French. The students wanted to see the back of  the puppet emperor.

To accomplish their goal, they needed arms and resources. They wanted their host country to provide them these inputs. Japan was rich, powerful and had staved off all western attempts to colonize it. Japan had also inflicted a humiliating military defeat mighty Russia. Japan had captured the imagination of the young Vietnamese.  Obviously, Japan was their role model.

The Vietnamese student-activists formed an organization named Restoration Society to further their cause. In due course, however, the Japanese Ministry of Interior frowned upon them and proceeded to curb their activities. Phan Boi Chau, along with a group of his key supporters, were deported. They sought refuge in China and Thailand.

China was also going through a wrenching transformation by then. In the year 1911, the revolutionary leader Sun Yet- sen succeeded in dethroning the centuries-old monarchy and setting up a republic. Such success of the Chinese nationalists fuelled further activism among the Vietnamese young nationalists. They formed the Association for the Restoration of Vietnam (Viet-nam Quan Phuc Hoi). With this, the goal of the nationalists became more radical. They no longer had any fascination with the idea of constitutional monarchy. They wanted to drive out the French, and establish a Republic.

Soon, the leadership of the anti-imperialist movement in Vietnam changed in its character.

7a. The Communist Movement and Vietnamese Nationalism ….. The Great Depression of the 1930s in America had its repercussions over Vietnam. As prices of commodities like rubber and rice fell due to fall in demand, the farming sector in Vietnam came under stress. The tradition-sipped interior provinces were the worst hit by the prevailing farm sector duress. Because of their perpetual poverty, these provinces were the most vulnerable to any sort of ill winds blowing across the farming sector. They would erupt, unable to cope with the hard times. They were, therefore, nicknamed the ‘electrical fuses’ of Vietnam. For the French colonial administrators, any sort of agitation or violent protests by the distressed farming community was seen as a defiance of their authority. They would put down such protests with a heavy hand often using bombing from the air to strafe the agitating farmers.

7b. The advent of Ho Chi Minh.. There were many disparate nationalist groups in Vietnam often working at cross purposes. In February 1930, Ho Chi Minh emerged in the national scene as a father figure and unified them under one banner –Vietnamese Communist Party (Vietnam Cong Sang Dang). Later, this was renamed Indo-Chinese Communist Party. Ho Chi Minh, educated in Paris, drew inspiration from the rising French Communist movement which demonstrated its power through visible show of force.

7c. Vietnam shakes off Japanese control  –  Ho Chi Minh ascends power … Vietnam fell prey to Japan’s colonial ambitions. In 1940, Japan occupied Vietnam. The nationalists’ owes doubled. Now, they had to two masters – the Japanese and the French. The League for the Independence of Vietnam (Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh), later called by the name ‘Vietminh’ fought the occupying Japanese forces and wrested control of the Hanoi port in September 1945. Soon, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam came into being with Ho Chi Minh as its Chairman.

7d. The New Republic of Vietnam emerges from the battle at Dien Bien Phu ..  The new republic was born with its cup of woes full. They had to contend with the French colonialists who tried to stage a come-back to power using the puppet emperor Bao Dai as their front man. Unable to face the fury of the French, the Vietminh retreated to the hills. The Vietminh fought a 8-year-old insurgency before defeating the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

The conclusive defeat of the French forces was a slap on the face of General Henry Navarte who had claimed just a year before that the forces under him would soon crush the Vietminh. A huge French garrison consisting of 16,000 forces capitulated to the Vietminh forces thanks to a superb guerrilla strategy planned and executed by the Vietminh commanders. The entire French Expeditionary Force consisting of 16 Colonels, 1749 officers were taken prisoner.

7e. Vietnam splits to two parts – North & South .. Peace negotiation in the aftermath of the wholesale French defeat started in Geneva. The Vietminh delegation was prevailed upon to accept bifurcation of Vietnam to two parts. The northern part was to be administered by the Vietminh under the communist leadership of Ho Chi Minh, the southern part going to the control of the controversial monarch Bao Dai.

7f. Another grueling period of Vietnamese history starts

No one sitting in the negotiating table in Geneva ever imagined that the bifurcation of the country would usher in such a calamitous period for the country’s future. The Bao dai regime was corrupt, inefficient and self- serving. It lacked legitimacy as it did not have the people’s mandate.

7g. The rise and fall of Ngo Dinh Diem .. Soon, it was dethroned by a coup staged by Ngo Dinh Diem. With an iron fist, he ruled over the southern part of Vietnam. Dissent was rife, but Diem would have none of it. His authoritarian state apparatus, he hunted down those who raised their voice against his misrule. Terming these activists as communists, he threw them into jails and eliminated the leaders. In a move that caused a good deal of doubt and disaffection, Ngo Dinh Diem retained the infamous ‘Ordnance 10’, a relic of the French era which promoted Christianity at the cost of Buddhism. It was a legacy which Diem should have done away with, but didn’t. His misrule unified all the diverse opposition groups under  a common banner – The National Liberation Front.

7h. Ho Chi Minh’s shadow lengthens over the South ..The National Liberation Front (NLF) found a rallying figure in Ho Chi Minh who had electrified the Northern part of the country with revolutionary fervor. The NLF fought for the unification of the two parts of Vietnam. Such an alliance between the Communist Ho Chi Minh leadership of the North and the nationalist NLF of the South was watched with much disquiet and unease by the United States of America. It could not look the other way as a communist take-over of the South looked a possibility.

8a. America plunges into war … America assumed it could stop the Ho Chi Minh juggernaut by military means. It poured troops, and arms and ammunitions to the South to confront the creeping communist influence. Between 1965 and 1972, as many as 3,40,000 U.S. military personnel fought in Vietnam for different periods. Some 7500 of them were women. Despite their overwhelming military superiority and medical facilities, American casualties mounted alarmingly. Close to 47,000 American servicemen laid down their lives, and more than three lakh were injured in the battle that raged between the Americans and the Communists under Ho Chi Min’s leadership. Many of the wounded were crippled for life.

8b. America reels from the losses in the war …. Each set back in the battle field saw more and more U.S. troops arriving in Vietnam. America’s military commitment soared entailing heavy commitment of funds. Military budget peaked dangerously. The woes of the Vietnamese natives knew no bounds. Scores were crippled and killed. Forests, farms and water-bodies were devastated as American bombs burned them down or polluted them dangerously.

8c. Carpet bombing by B-52, and the Ho Chi Min trail …..  The communists and the nationalists of the NLF though diminutive compared to the American military, fought with remarkable resilience. They could outwit the American forces by resorting to innovative skills. The fighters were highly motivated, and knew the terrain much better. Besides this, they could mingle with the masses seamlessly, making it almost impossible for the Americans to differentiate between a foe and a friend.

Americans became impatient as the Communist-backed NLF outwitted them in smart guerrilla tactics. Americans began using the banned and deadly weapons like the Naplam bombs, Agent Orange and Phosphorous bombs to burn down forests and paddy fields. Carpet bombing by the giant B-52 bombers brought unimaginable horror and destruction to Vietnam. Such savage attack took a heavy toll of Vietnamese life and property.

8d. America begins its soul-searching … The colossal loss of life and property, the virtual stalemate in the battle front and the enormous sacrifices America was making in men and material triggered serious introspection among a large section of the Americans. While some opposed the war vehemently, others felt the sacrifices were not worth the gain. They began to question the government about its Vietnam policy.

8e. ‘Conscription’ rattles the American youthAs the war waged on, need for soldiers for duty in Vietnam increased. The American army got stretched for man power. ‘Conscription’ was enforced to recruit young men and women for duty in Vietnam. Conscription became a hated practice for the young folks. University graduates were given an option to opt out of the compulsory military service in Vietnam. Since the black and the poor class white Americans do not generally go to universities, the policy of Conscription inadvertently created a class-divide. The elite stayed at home while the poor and less educated went to fight in Vietnam.

8f. American media, caught in the horns of a dilemma …..  Powerful voices both supporting and opposing the war effort were aired in newspapers and radio. Passionate films were produced glorifying America’s involvement in the war. John Wayne’S Green Berets was one of these films. In the same way, films cynical of the on-going war were made. Francis Ford Coppala’s Apocalypse Now created serious doubts in the minds of the viewers about the moral and ethical justification of the war.   

8g. The confusion in State Department and the Pentagon .. Never in the history of the United States, had the political establishment faced such a difficult choice. Withdrawing from Vietnam would give the Communists a free run over the South emboldening them to push into other countries in the region, Pentagon argued. Continuing the war was proving to be increasingly unpopular with the voters. The advisors to the President and those in the State Department were unanimous that the position was becoming untenable for the President who draws his strength from the voters’ goodwill. Actually, the Americans had failed to estimate the strength of the nationalistic feelings that was sweeping through both parts of the country. The people abhorred hard-core communism much less than they did foreign domination. They wanted to breathe free, at any cost.

8h. The Ho Chi Minh trail .. the symbol of Vietnamese resilience.. This was the labyrinth of mud tracks that snaked through the jungles along the South and North Vietnam borders. It was the lifeline that ensured steady supply of men and material replenishments from the Communist North to the South where the American and government forces were locked in an asymmetrical warfare with the Communist-backed freedom fighters. The Americans targeted this road network so as to disrupt the supply lines of the freedom fighters. To do this, they bombed the forest areas through which the tracks ran. Using the giant B-52 bombers flying in rows, they dropped hundreds and thousands of tons of deadly bombs and chemical weapons to obliterate the forest that gave cover for the supplies to pass through. They succeeded mostly, but not fully. The mud tracks were re-built within hours of the bombing by groups Vietnamese workers who braved the onslaught of the B-52s with remarkable resilience and tenacity.

The Americans did destroy the road network, but couldn’t break the Vietnamese will to survive and succeed.  The road network was nicknamed ‘Ho Chi Minh’ trail. It came to symbolize the indefatigable Vietnamese resolve to stand up to the American might through very frugal material resources.

The Ho Chi Minh trail’s construction started in the 1950s.  By 1967, nearly 20,000 Vietnamese troops were crossing into the South from the North each month through this improvised road network.

The trail was a low-cost, highly efficient road network that had supply bases, medical aid centers and other logistical hubs. Besides trucks, foot-soldiers and cycle-borne soldiers transported supplies almost relentlessly.

A good portion of the road lay outside Vietnam, through neighbouring Laos and Cambodia before entering South Vietnam.

9a. The Nation and its founding fathers ..

Besides the military aspects, a good way of studying the saga of freedom struggles is to assess the impact on the different sections of the society.

9b. The weaker sex to the fore … Vietnam’s appreciation of women’s role in public life were portrayed with great sensitivity in Phan Boi Chau’s novel written in 1913. The book was based on the heroism of the Trung sisters who had fought against Chinese domination in 39-43CE. Why the Trung sisters rebelled against the Chinese is uncertain, but Phan Boi Chu’s book made its readers marvel the valour and sacrifice of the two sisters. The nation drew inspiration from the sisters. In plays and paintings, the Vietnamese applauded the two sisters. It was believed that they had raised a force of 30,000 volunteer-soldiers to fight the Chinese. They fought bravely, but committed suicide after their forces were defeated by the Chinese, and their capture by the Chinese became imminent.

Another such heroine was Trieu Au who lived in the third century.  Brought up as an orphan, she escaped to the jungles where she mobilized a large army to fight the Chinese domination. Her army was later defeated by the Chinese. She too killed herself by drowning to escape humiliation.

9b. War throws up great ‘heroines’….

Compared to their Chinese counterparts, Vietnamese women enjoyed greater equality. However, they could not decide their destiny. In public life, they were virtually invisible.

As the spirit of nationalism gripped the nation and a bloody armed struggle against a foreign power (Americans) raged, Vietnam had to make big sacrifices. This tragedy, however, brought some benefits too. Women emerged from the shadows to take on a prominent share in the freedom struggle. They offered to work in factories, offices, hospitals and in the army. They not only equaled their male colleagues, but also outshone them in bravery, tenacity and commitment.

The war-ravaged bleeding nation stood up to salute these brave women. One such woman was Nguyen Thi Xuan, who was reputed to have downed a jet by just 20 bullets. The brave Vietnamese women was portrayed holding a rifle in one hand and a hammer in the other. By the 1960S, women had become ubiquitous in the armed forces.

Women volunteers manned and maintained the 2195km-long Ho Chi Minh trail. There were 2500 strtegic points along the trail which had a sizeable number of women as guards. Some estimates say, there were as many as 1.5 million women in the North Vietnamese armed forces.

9c. Women during peacetime reconstruction …As the curtains came down on the bloody war and peace arrived, women no longer worked in the armed forces. They returned to civilian positions, underlining their nation-building role.

10a. The War draws to a close … The war had shaken the conscience of America. Slowly but steadily, the realization dawned in the Americans’ minds that the war was un-winnable and morally repugnant. Eminent public figures like Jane Fonda and Mary Mcarthy reached out to North Vietnam. Winds of change blew thick and fast. Under the deft diplomacy of Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State of United States, negotiations began with North Vietnam for a gradual disengagement of America from the conflict. The peace agreement was signed in 1974 in Paris. America and the rest of the world heaved a sigh of relief. The National Liberation Front (NLF) stormed into the presidential palace in Saigon in April 30, 1975. Vietnam finally became unified.

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Learning English and History together …………..2

November 20, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Learning English and History together … 2

October 27, 1996

An Afghan Village, Destroyed at the Hands of Men Who Vowed Peace

By J.Burns

SAR CHESHMA, Afghanistan, Oct. 24— In a country where at least 10,000 villages have been bombed, shelled and burned into rubble, the razing of one more hamlet can pass almost unnoticed. For hundreds of thousands of Afghan families who have lost their homes, the anonymity of the loss only adds to the pain.

So when a battered Kabul taxi arrived here this morning, smoke still rising and the smell of torched ruins heavy in the air, villagers clamored to tell outsiders how Sar Cheshma had died.

Hastening down narrow lanes between fire-blackened houses, the handful of people remaining in the village abandoned for a moment their rush to board trucks waiting to carry them away as refugees.

The villagers’ story has been a familiar one in the 18 years that Afghanistan has been at war. The twist this time was that the men who destroyed Sar Cheshma were the turbaned warriors of the Taliban, the ultra-conservative Muslims who have imposed a medieval social order across much of Afghanistan.

Two years ago, the Taliban sprang from religious schools with a promise to suppress the carnage that has killed an estimated 1.5 million Afghans and driven millions from their homes.

The villagers of Sar Cheshma say 30 Taliban fighters swept in at dawn on Tuesday, then spent several hours pouring canisters of gasoline into the 120 courtyard houses and setting them on fire.

Sar Cheshma lies barely five miles from the northern outskirts of Kabul, the capital, where the Taliban forces are fighting a village-by-village battle with the forces of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a less conservative Muslim leader whose troops used Sar Cheshma briefly on Monday as a base to fire on the Taliban.

A Bloody Robe, A Koran in Ashes

A young mother and her three sons were killed by a Taliban rocket fired when the Massoud forces were in the village.
There were no further deaths in the torching, which nearly obliterated the village. But in one mud-walled courtyard after another where hundreds of people lived, little remains but buckled bed frames, melted kitchen utensils and charred piles of grain.

”Are we not humans?” sobbed a 45-year-old woman named Narwaz, rushing forward with others to greet visitors who had slipped past Taliban checkpoints posted to keep outsiders away.

Beside her, a villager named Khairuddin, 55, waved a bloodied burqa, the head-to-toe shroud that the Taliban force all women to wear outside their homes.

The garment was all that remained of his daughter, the woman killed with her sons in the Taliban rocket attack.
In a home up one of the village’s dusty pathways, another man, Najmuddin, 30, broke away from sifting through his blackened grain supply, hoping to find enough uncharred bits to carry away.

Suddenly, the grain forgotten, his face contorted, he rushed to fetch a metal bowl piled high with ashes that had been balanced on a section of broken wall. It was all that remained of a copy of the Koran that he said had been in his family for generations.

”Tyrants! Tyrants!” he shouted, referring to the Taliban. ”This is the book of God. Kill us if you must, but don’t burn our holy book!”

Their attention attracted by his cries, several neighbors rushed forward, one with a large metal plate sitting among the utensils that Najmuddin had saved from the fire. Reverentially, Najmuddin placed the bowl with the ashes onto the plate and carried it away.

”We honor these ashes,” he said, weeping. ”The Koran is the book of God.”
The shock of what happened here appeared to be all the greater among the villagers because the perpetrators were the Taliban.

When they emerged as a fighting force in 1994, the Taliban presented themselves as the harbingers of a new Afghanistan, modeled on the teachings of the Koran and inspired by a burning zeal to reunify the country.

From their original base in the southern city of Kandahar, they swept east and west, suppressing local militias that had reduced much of the country to anarchy. The Muslim clerics who led the Taliban promised that their forces would set new standards of decency in the fighting, and indeed Taliban units appear to have avoided the raping and pillaging of most of the other Afghan forces that have fought in the civil war.

But they have become widely hated for the draconian social order laid down by the Taliban leaders, which bans women from working outside the home and girls from going to school, requires men to grow beards and forbids children to fly kites or play soccer.

Since Kabul fell to the Taliban four weeks ago, there has been a series of uprisings against them in towns and villages north of the capital.

Now the Taliban have gone a step further, using tactics indistinguishable from those of other forces that have contributed to the country’s destruction.

Today, two days after the attack on Sar Cheshma, Taliban jets bombed Kalakan, a village under the control of the Massoud forces about 10 miles further north.

A reporter for the BBC who visited the village said the bombing had killed 20 civilians.

Scene of Fighting Against Russians

In the case of Sar Cheshma, the Taliban attack was the latest in a series of disasters. The residents have repeatedly found themselves in the middle of the fighting because of the village’s strategic position, hard up against the Ghoza mountain range, which runs like a shield across the northwestern flank of Kabul.

In the decade that Soviet forces were here, Sar Cheshma became a stronghold for the Muslim guerrillas who ultimately drove out the Soviet troops.

Soviet bombers pounded the village more than once, leaving jagged ruins where mudwalled homes once stood and forcing many villagers to flee to Pakistan and Iran as refugees. Some returned after the Russians left, but barely a third of the village’s 300 homes were occupied when they were attacked this week.

In the atmosphere of panic that gripped Sar Cheshma today, many villagers said the Taliban were worse than the Russians.

”We killed more than 40 Russian soldiers in this village, but they never burned our houses,” said Nizamuddin, 35, who like most others here had supported his family by raising livestock and working a small plot of land.
Again and again the villagers voiced special loathing for the Taliban because of the religious movement’s claim to be the true upholders of the Koran.

”Didn’t they do a wonderful job here, these Muslims?” said Nizamuddin, leading the visitors on a house-by-house tour. ”Wasn’t this burning of our village a true act of faith? We should applaud them — they are surely the best Muslims in the world.”

If razing the village showed how none of the armies fighting for control of Afghanistan has much mercy for civilians, it also demonstrated that the war has gone beyond a competition between faiths and ideologies and has become little more than an ethnic struggle.

One reason the Taliban have been driven back so quickly from the northward advances they made after overrunning Kabul is that many villages dotting the dusty plain between Kabul and the Hindu Kush mountains, 60 miles to the north, are inhabited by ethnic Tajiks, the second-largest population group in Afghanistan.
All but a tiny minority of Taliban fighters are Pathans, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, accounting for about half the country’s 16 million people.

As a Tajik village, Sar Cheshma was a natural attraction for Mr. Massoud’s forces, and a natural target for Taliban suspicion.

The villagers say Taliban fighters arrived last weekend, summoned them and ordered them to surrender all of their weapons. This done, the Taliban departed with a warning that any attempt by Massoud forces to enter the village should be reported immediately to a nearby Taliban post.

”We gave them our Kalashnikovs, and they said they would protect us,” said the villager named Khairuddin.

Most in Village Destined for Exile

On Monday, the villagers said, they awoke to find that a group of Massoud fighters under the command of a Muslim cleric from the village, Mullah Taj Mohammed, had slipped into Sar Cheshma overnight.

The Massoud fighters ordered the villagers to stay in their homes, making any warning to the Taliban impossible, the villagers said. A brief battle followed, they said, in which Khairuddin’s family members were killed, then the Massoud fighters slipped away to the mountains, leaving the villagers to face the Taliban’s wrath at first light on Tuesday.

For most of the villagers, the immediate future appears to lie in joining hundreds of thousands of refugees in Kabul, many of them so destitute that they wander the streets begging.

But one Sar Cheshma resident said she was finished with fleeing. Sajida, 40, a widow, clutched her son, Abdullah, 12, and said she would stay amid the ruins of her home.

Six years ago her husband, an officer in the Communist army that disintegrated in 1992, was killed by a guerrilla rocket in Kabul.

”I left Kabul to escape from the fighting,” she said, ”but the fighting has followed me wherever I have gone. Now, if I must, I will stay and die here.”

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GOLD LOSES ITS GLITTER

November 12, 2014 at 6:20 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Gold’s gleam dims

Gold has historically enjoyed an indomitable reputation as the safest medium for world’s trade and exchange. In times good or bad, during peace and war, upheavals and turmoil, gold has remained the most dependable bulwark for stability and universal acceptability. No wonder, from money-lenders to monarchs, coup leaders to corporate houses, banks to village banias, gold has remained the bulwark against instability and confusion. Investors, governments, and small-time domestic savers, all love and repose their wealth on gold as the insurance against hard times. Currency notes, and plastic money, despite their universal use can never equal gold in the perception for stability.

The last ten years gold saw a continuous surge in its prices. The higher the prices rose, the greater became the demand to own it. Thus, surging prices and increasing demand nudged each other along an upward curve. For hedging against inflation, gold became the most preferred commodity.

Now, this bastion of is shaking as gold prices, quite intriguingly, has been sliding. For the community of fund managers, investors and savers, it has brought a big headache. Gold prices have fallen to their lowest level since 2010. The 12-year bull run has been overtaken by bearish tendencies. From its price peak at $1,923 an ounce in 2011, the prices have fallen to $1,148 an ounce. That is about a 40% drop.

During the global financial crisis in 2008, when fear and insecurity gripped the banks and the business community, there was a rush to sell off stocks and buy and gold. Major currencies like the dollar and euro lost value as the economies in respective countries floundered. Investors scampered to buy gold. Precious metals-backed exchange traded funds moved to stock up gold, adding to the increase in prices. The contagion soon engulfed the sea of middle class people who, sensing sharp erosion of their bank savings, rushed to the nearest jewellery shops to buy gold. It was a vicious cycle of fear-driven demand and rumour-driven loss of faith in all other forms of assets, including the iron-clad fixed deposits in nationalized banks.

Fortunately, curtains have begun to come down on this highly destabilizing phase of international finance. Holdings in global gold exchange traded funds have slumped reaching the lowest level in five years. Gold, as a commodity, has shed capital locked in it in huge amounts.

What led to this reversal of fortune for gold? The decision of the U.S. Federal Reserve (FED) to wind down is, logically, the most important contributing factor. Some $4 trillion was injected into the economy through this initiative to spur growth. A good amount of this money had got sucked by gold and stock markets around the world.

As America’s economy shows definite signs of return to growth, the dollar’s health has revived. Its value has begun to go up vis-à-vis other currencies. As a result, funds from commodities such as gold and oil had migrated to areas where they are parked during normal times. Fall in oil prices has eased inflationary pressures in most countries. People no longer feel the need to freeze their money in gold.

Gold prices may go down further as the FED signaling a hike in interest rates by 2015 middle. The only dampeners to the market’s cheer may be China’s slowing down growth and the eurozone’s continuing anemic growth. Fall of gold prices is good news for India – the largest importer of gold in the world. Quite expectedly, India’s gold imports had shown an upward trend in the past few months.

The Reserve Bank of India has relaxed the tight controls it had clamped on gold imports last year to curtail out go of precious foreign exchange. The government can breathe a little easy as it mulls reducing the gold import controls further. This could reduce illicit bringing in of gold into the country as smugglers will see little incentive in their trade. For he jewellery industry, this will be real good news. But, there is still the danger of rupee sliding with the rising dollar. If rupee weakens alarmingly, there will be no lifting of gold controls.
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OF FRIENDSHIP by Francis Bacon — Explanation para by para

November 10, 2014 at 2:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Of Friendship –Para by para explanation

IT HAD been hard for him that spake it to have put more truth and untruth together in few words, than in that speech, Whatsoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.

Meaning …..Francis Bacon starts his essay with a grand statement modeled after the views of Aristotle. Finding pleasure in solicitude is contrary to human character and mind. He expresses his belief in rather strong words. Anyone, who shuns fellow human beings and retreats to isolation, is degraded to the level of a wild beast. The other possibility is that he is god.

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Learning English & History together — 1

November 9, 2014 at 2:55 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Flashback to history 1 ….

Introduction … President Bush Sr. had invaded Iraq to punish and possibly eliminate its leader President Saddam Hussein. A few months earlier, President Saddam Hussein had ordered his army to invade the oil-rich and cash-rich neighbor Kuwait. There was no apparent justification for such a naked aggression of Iraq against its tiny, but very rich southern neighbor Kuwait.

Iraq’s unprovoked armed attack to annex Kuwait and pocket its huge cash reserves angered the whole world. The Americans and the western powers were particularly livid. The provocation was not Saddam Hussein’s invasion, but the danger it posed to the free flow of crude oil to needy western countries.

America led by President Bush mobilized world opinion against Saddam Hussein. It decided to take military action to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait and set it free. President Bush enlisted the military support of his European allies and a few other Muslim nations. A grand coalition was formed to invade Iraq and dislodge or even kill Saddam Hussein.

His son George Bush Jr. invaded Iraq in 2003 again. His motivation was suspect from the beginning. He naively believed that Iraq was in league with al Qaeda to mount attacks on America to avenge the defeat and humiliation in the first Gulf War in 1991. He also created a scare that Iraq under Saddam was pursuing a programme to make nuclear bombs and deadly chemical weapons. Recklessly, he described Iraq to be in the ‘Axis of Terror’ with countries like Iran and North Korea as other constituents of the terror axis.

Launching  a strident campaign to malign Saddam Hussein, he brought Britain, Australia and Poland on board to make a joint military command that could invade Iraq again to destroy Saddam Hussein and obliterate his so-called terror machine.

To his and America’s great embarrassment, no nuke, nor any trace of chemical weapons were found later. The allegation about Saddam’s collusion with al Qaeda was proved to be baseless.

The attack described in the following article marked the beginning of the Second Gulf War under George Bush Jr.

This story is about the first American missile attack on Baghdad, Iraq’s capital and the havoc it caused.

 Batwomn comic is a popular comic book read across the world.

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The clock said 7.55 – precisely the time the missile struck

[Taken from The Independent of March 24, 2003 Writer Robert Frisk]

In the smashed concrete and mud, there was a set of Batwoman comics. On page 17, where the dirt had splashed on to the paper, Batwoman was, oddly, rescuing Americans from a burning tower block.

Not far from the crater, I found a history book recording the fate of old King Faisal and the armed opposition to British rule in Iraq. The cruise missile had flipped this book open to a page honouring “the martyr Mahmoud Bajat”.
On the wall of the sitting room ¬ and the floor was missing ¬ the clock still hung on its nail. It had stopped at exactly 7.55, which was when the cruise missile smashed into numbers 10 and 10A of the laneway in the Zukah district of Baghdad on Saturday night.

Zukah is a slightly down-at-heel middle-class suburb with old orange trees and half-dead bougainvillaea and two-storey villas that need many coats of paint. There is a school at one end of the lane and, round the corner, a building site ¬ but no obvious military target that I could see.

Amr Ahmed al-Dulaimi is a family man ¬ 11 children and his wife were in number 10A when the missile crashed into the house of his neighbour, Abdul-Bari Samuriya, burying Mr Samuriya’s wife and two children and punching a crater 20 feet into the ground. He managed to dig them out ¬ both wounded children were still in hospital yesterday ¬ but his home has gone. All that was left of the front room was a wooden sofa almost buried under six feet of earth, a table chopped neatly in half by the blast and a totally undamaged vase of bright red plastic flowers.

So why the missile? Why should the Americans target with their supposedly precision ordnance this little middle-class ghetto? Mr Dulaimi runs a small engineering plant, Mr Samuriya is a businessman. Could it be that the black curtains of oil smoke shrouding Baghdad ¬ the attempt to mislead the guidance system of missiles ¬ had done its work all too well?

Crunching yesterday through the glass and powdered concrete of the road outside, I discovered a neighbour ¬ as usual, it was a case of no names ¬ who admitted he had sent his family away because “on Friday night, we had 15 missiles here”. Fifteen? On little old, harmless Zukah? What did this mean? The missile fragments had scattered across dozens of houses and the Iraqi security men had turned up at dawn to collect them.

Down the road, another villa had been damaged, its walls cracked, its windows smashed. “This has always been a quiet district,” its owner said to me. “Never ¬ ever ¬ have we experienced anything like this. Why, why, why?” How many times have I heard these words from the innocent? After every bombing, confronted by journalists, they say this to us. Always the same words.

Then I remembered what Iraqi radio said 24 hours before ¬ and what the Iraqi Vice-President would tell us an hour later. “They are trying to assassinate President Hussein,” Taha Yassin Ramadan said. “What kind of state tries to assassinate another country’s leaderthen says it is fighting a war on terror?”
The inhabitants of this little laneway in Zukah are none too happy about the way they have been targeted and I wasn’t so certain that they were as keen to be “liberated” as the Americans might like to think.
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