Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
May 10, 2019 (posted May 22, 2019)

Mr. President:  Mass killings are remembered and this year is the centenary of the
notorious Jallianwalla Bagh massacre in Amritsar.  April 13, 1919 was the day of
Baisakhi, a major Sikh festival, so people had come to the holy city from surrounding
villages and gathered to listen to speakers.  They were also unhappy with the
deportation of independence leaders Dr. Saifuddinn Kitchlew and Dr. Satya Pal out of
state to Dharamsala.

Brig-General Reginald Dyer the local commander had banned all meetings and when
informed of the crowd gathering in the Bagh, he gathered Gurkha troops and
proceeded forthwith to disperse what to him was an illegal assembly.  His force took
up positions on a raised bank at the main entrance and he ordered them to fire on
the unarmed crowd.  People tried to flee toward the other exits and in the stampede
some were trampled.  Yet the firing continued for an incomprehensible ten whole
minutes using up 1650 rounds and leaving hundreds dead and over a thousand

No respite for the Sikhs despite their anti-Muslim stance during the 1947 position.  In
1984 following Indira Gandhi's assassination by a Sikh bodyguard -- itself a result of
her military response killing Sikh religious zealots occupying the Amritsar Golden
Temple -- riots broke out.  An estimated 8000-17,000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi and
Haryana.  The connivance of the Delhi police and the Congress party has long been
suspected, and Human Rights Watch has complained of no prosecution for the
killings.  Ditto for the perpetrators of the Muslim pogrom in Gujarat during Narendra
Modi's rule.

While the callousness of the Jallianwalla Bagh incident horrifies, the number killed
pales in comparison to what has happened since independence.  Within months of
freedom, India invaded the independent principality of Hyderabad, allied to the British
since the 18th century.  An estimated 200,000 people were killed and many fled to

It also invaded, occupied (1973) and then annexed Sikkim in 1975, a Himalayan
foothill monarchy since 1642.  The suppressed independence movement in
neighboring Assam and the Northeast and other ongoing insurgencies across at least
a quarter of India continue.

In Kashmir, a decades long struggle for some kind of autonomy has cost tens of
thousands of lives.  Estimates vary from 40 to 80 thousand.  Some Indians have a
conscience:  Long critical of India's stance, the Booker Prize winning novelist and
peace activist Arundhati Roy has called the Modi government 'reckless' in its policy

The Muslim minority in India appears to be intimidated and abused.  A recent feature
story on Chamanganj, a Muslim neighborhood in Kanpur, illuminates the distress and
discrimination experienced by Muslims.  The Congress candidate never visits; the BJP
candidate shows up hoping to capture some votes but his party's policy is notoriously

In fact the BJP's Hindu nationalist agenda brooks no minority, and the violence
against Christians is also on the rise.  Opendoorsusa.org reports over 12,000
incidents last year, while the number of churches attacked rose dramatically from 34
to 98.  It has now become the 10th most dangerous country in the world for Christians
on the 2019 World Watch List.

A secular India, the pride of Indian independence leader and its first prime minister
Jawaharlala Nehru, is long gone.  In its place, a muscular Hinduism enforced by goons
from nationalist organizations is now labeled "saffron terror".  The Hudson Institute
has called these attacks "not inchoate mob violence, triggered by ... insult; rather they
involved careful planning by organized Hindu extremists ..."

The record is surprising yet evident:  Independent India has killed hundreds of times
more people than the Dyer atrocity.  Moreover in its first term of office, the behavior of
the Modi government and its affiliates has sown serious doubt on India's future as a
secular state.  So it is that the ongoing current election has put the electorate on
trial.  Will it pass the test?