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South Asia

Why South Asia’s majorities act like persecuted minorities

“Mukul Kesavan, a perceptive Indian historian, sees this region-wide propensity for majoritarian nationalism as a sad if natural outcome of the awkward struggle to build new nation-states. The most egregious recent example is Myanmar, whose 90% Buddhist majority felt so threatened by a Rohingya Muslim minority of barely 1% that it sanctioned burning, pillage, murder, rape and enforced exile. Bangladesh chased non-Muslim tribes into India, and its once large and prosperous Hindu minority has dwindled alarmingly in the face of constant pressure. In the name of orthodoxy, extremists in Pakistan have viciously hounded not only Christians and Hindus but also Shia Muslims, Ahmadis and allegedly unorthodox Sufis. Sinhalese have historically dominated the island [of Sri Lanka], a fact forcefully reasserted in 2009 when the Sri Lankan army brought to a bloody end a 26-year-long insurgency by mostly Hindu ethnic Tamils, the largest minority group.”

 

Tags: religionethnicity, South Asiaregions, politicalconflict

Source: www.economist.com

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The Real Threat to Hinduism: The Slow Death of India’s Rivers

Hinduism shares an intricate, intimate relationship with the climate, geography, and biodiversity of South Asia; its festivals, deities, mythology, scriptures, calendar, rituals, and even superstitions are rooted in nature. There is a strong bond between Hinduism and South Asia’s forests, wildlife, rivers, seasons, mountains, soils, climate, and richly varied geography, which is manifest in the traditional layout of a typical Hindu household’s annual schedule. Hinduism’s existence is tied to all of these natural entities, and more prominently, to South Asia’s rivers.

 

Hinduism as a religion celebrates nature’s bounty, and what could be more representative of nature’s bounty than a river valley? South Asian rivers have sustained and nourished Hindu civilizations for centuries. They are responsible for our prosperous agriculture, timely monsoons, diverse aquatic ecosystems, riverine trade and commerce, and cultural richness.  Heavily dammed, drying in patches, infested by sand mafia and land grabbers, poisoned by untreated sewage and industrial waste, and hit by climate change — our rivers, the cradle of Hinduism, are in a sorry state.

 

If there is ever a threat to Hinduism, this is it. Destroy South Asia’s rivers and with it, Hinduism’s history and mythology will be destroyed. Rituals will turn into mockery, festivals, a farce, and Hinduism itself, a glaring example of man’s hypocritical relationship with nature. The fact that we worship our rivers as mothers and then choke them to death with all sorts of filth is already eminent.

Source: thediplomat.com

This might be a controversial op-ed because it has a strong perspective on the religious and environmental dimensions of modern Indian politics…that said, I think it is well worth the read.  The Ganges is both a holy river, and a polluted river; that juxtaposition leads to many issues confronting India today. 

 

Tagsculturereligion, India, South Asia, Hinduism, pollution, industry,   environment, sustainability, consumption, fluvial

How Bollywood stereotypes the West

Hollywood’s view of India can be insensitive – but Indian films present clichés about the West, and about Indian emigrants too, writes Laya Maheshwari.

 

Nostalgia for the colour and vivacity of India turns into a snobbish belief that ‘Indian culture’ is inherently more fun and cheerful than the drab and lifeless world in France, the US, or the UK. The rule-conforming nature of Western society is seen as antithetical to ‘living it up’, which our exuberant protagonists are wont to do. Western weddings cannot match up to Indian ones; nor is Western food anywhere as tasty as Indian food. People residing in Western societies are just not as street-smart as our Indian protagonists.

 

Tagsculture, India, South Asia, media

Source: www.bbc.com

Pakistan’s traditional third gender isn’t happy with the trans movement

For centuries, South Asia has had its own Khawaja Sira or third gender culture. Now, some third gender people in Pakistan say the modern transgender identity is threatening their ancient culture.

Source: www.pri.org

Sometimes our assumptions about a society, and how they might react to cultural issues are just that…assumptions.  I for one was very surprised to learn that Pakistan had a a traditional third gender. 

 

Tags: culture, developmentpodcast, genderPakistansexuality, South Asia, religion.

What to Know About Diwali, the Festival of Lights

Diwali, one of the biggest holidays in Indian culture, is a five-day festival of lights celebrated worldwide by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. This year, the traditional day of Diwali falls on Oct. 30, though celebrations span the entire week leading up to and following the holiday, which marks the triumph of good over evil.”

Source: time.com

This video provides a good introduction to the incredibly important South Asia holiday of Diwali. 

 

Tags: culture, India, Hinduism, South Asia, festivals.

India’s campaign to change cultural practices

“Television commercials and billboards now carry a message that strike at the heart of the Indian contradiction of being the world’s fastest-growing major economy and also where relieving oneself in the open is the norm in most villages. Research shows that one of the reasons for the stubborn social practice is the centuries-old caste system, in which cleaning human waste was a job reserved only for the lowest caste. Having a toilet at home is still considered unclean by many villagers. They regard it cleaner to go to the open farms, which can cause water-borne diseases, the second leading cause of death of Indian children younger than 5.”

Source: www.washingtonpost.com

An aggressive new campaign is ridiculing those who are no longer poor but continue to defecate in the open–even this UNICEF campaign (some language and low-brow humor, so use your own discretion) is working hard to change the cultural patterns and practices surrounding defecation and sanitation.  There are more cellphones than toilets in India and the lack of adequate sanitation and toilets is serious enough that that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made building toilets a national priority.  Comics are using their platform to bring this issue of uneven development to light. 54% of people in India do not have regular access to toilets and these comedians are using their platform to not only get some laughs, but to advocate for social change. 

 

Tagsdevelopment, poverty, India.

Fertility Rates-Differences Within Countries

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“An important aspect about country level data of fertility to keep in mind is that there can be considerable heterogeneity within countries, which are hidden in the mean fertility which were discussed in this entry. The mean Total Fertility Rate for India in 2010 was 2.8 (UN Data): But this average hides the fact that the fertility in many Southern Indian regions was below 1.5 (which is similar to the mean fertility in many European countries), while the fertility in Northern India was still higher than 5 children per woman (which is as high as the mean of the African countries with the highest fertility).”

Source: ourworldindata.org

This is a stunning example of uneven development and regional differences within countries.  Too often we discuss countries as if the situation inside the borders of one country is the same throughout it, even if the geographic contexts can be wildly different. 

Questions to Ponder: Why are the fertility rates in so different in northern and southern India?  How does this regional imbalance impact the country?  What are other examples of major differences within a country? 

Tags: regions, population, demographic transition model, declining populationmodelsunit 2 population, India, South Asia. 

Bangladesh’s Hazardous Geography

Bangladesh is exposed to threat of hazards resulting from a number of natural disasters and remains classified as one the most vulnerable countries. Majority of the country is affected by cyclone, drought and floods.

Source: www.saarc-sadkn.org

Bangladesh is regularly hit with different types of natural disasters. The impact of these natural disasters costs the country millions making it dependent on foreign aid.  Disaster clean-up and relief aid after major floods, droughts, and hurricanes.  

 

Tagsdisasters, environmentBangladeshSouth Asia, development.

This Is the Traffic Capital of the World

There are only 650 major intersections here—but somehow only 60 traffic lights.

Source: www.newrepublic.com

Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and (as I often tell my students) it is the biggest city that nobody has ever heard of.  The infrastructure is so incredibly limited that traffic jams cost the city an estimated $3.8 billion in delays and air pollution.  This is an excellent article to explore some of the problems confronting megacities. 

Tags: Bangladeshtransportation, planning, density, South Asia, development, economic, megacities.

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