Archaeologists and historians from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan who participated in an international seminar on the Gandhara civilization organized by the Pakistan High Commission and the Buddhist and Pali University in Homagama on March 11, extolled the virtues of the ancient Buddhist and Hindu Gandhara civilization in Northern Pakistan, saying that it was a golden era of ethnic and religious harmony, and a model for today’s strife torn world where people of different ethnic and religious groups are going at each other’s throats.
Although Pakistan is now an Islamic country, it had been the home of four civilizations in the past, pointed out Brig.(R) Agha Ahmad Gul, former Vice Chancellor of Balochistan University.
The earliest is the Mehrgarh civilization of the neolithic period which spanned from 7000 BC to 2000 BC. The Mehrgarh civilization was located west of the River Indus 100 miles south of present-day Quetta. It is believed to be the earliest known farming and herding area in South Asia, Brig.Gul said.
The Mehrgarh civilization was succeeded by the more famous Indus Valley Civilization which comprised two ancient civilizations, namely, Harappa and Moenjo Daro.
Harappa and Moenjo Daro were the earliest urban settlements of the Bronze Age, which existed between 2500 BC and 1500 BC. Then came the Gandhara civilization (500 BC to 900 AD).
Gandhara lay around the Indus and Kabul rivers and Swat in present day Southern Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan. It was bounded on the North and the West by the Hindu-Kush and Suleiman Mountains, and the Safed Koh range in the South. Pakistan’s capital Islamabad is in the Gandhara region. It was a fertile area as evident from the Gandhara which meant “Land of Lakes.”
Gandhara was ruled by many dynasties, but nearly all were linked to Buddhism for the most part, Brig.Gul said. In fact, Buddhism and the Indo-Greek artistic tradition became Gandhara’s trade mark.
The Archaemendis ruled from 600 BC to 400 BC; the Greeks from 326 BC to 324 BC; the Hindu Mauryans from 324 to about 185 BC; Indo-Greeks from about 190 to 110 BC; Scythians/Parthians from 110 to 80 AD; Kushans from about 100 AD to 450 AD; White Huns from 450 AD to 850 AD; Hindu Shahis from 850 to 990 AD and Muslims from 1025 AD onwards.
Around 556 BC, during the reign of the Iranian ruler Cyrus the Great, Gandhara was added to the Achaemenids Empire. In 327 BC Alexander the Great conquered it.
“Alexander’s stay in Gandhara was short, but he left sizeable population of Greeks in every region he conquered, including Gandhara. The craftsmen, soldiers and other followers were encouraged to inter-marry and blend with the locals, introducing the Greek civilization in conquered regions which affected their history for centuries to come,” Brig.Gul said.
About seven years after Alexander, the Hindu ruler, Chandragupta Maurya of Magadha, in what is now Bihar in India, conquered Gandhara and named Taxila (Thakshashila) as a provincial capital of his newly formed Mauryan Empire. In 268 BC, Chandragupta’s grandson, Emperor Asoka, extensively propagated Buddhism not only in Gandhara but all over the Indian subcontinent. The Mauryan Empire lasted some 130 years.
In 184 BC, the Indo-Greeks, an ethnic group left-behind by Alexander in Bactria (modern North Afghanistan) captured Gandhara under King Demetrius. He built a new city near Taxila known now as Sirkap (meaning ‘severed head’). His Kingdom consisted of Gandhara, Arachosia (modern day Kandahar in Afghanistan), the Punjab, and a part of the Ganges Valley in India.
“By second century BC, Taxila had become a multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-religious society, where Greeks, Indians, Bactrian’s and Western Iranians lived together. Remains of a Zoroastrian Temple from that period still exist at Jandial, directly north of Taxila,” Brig.Gul said.
By 110 BC, the Scytho-Parthians, a nomadic people from Persia, had begun to takeover Gandhara and the Punjab. They ruled for about a hundred years. In the first quarter of the 1st century AD, the Parthians moved in from Persia and took over the Greek petty kingdoms in Gandhara and Punjab.
Then in 80 AD came the Kushans, a tribe from Central Asia who wrested control of Gandhara from the Scytho-Parthians. Taxila was destroyed but a new city was built nearby, and renamed Sirsukh (Happy Head). Taxila became a hub of Buddhist activity and hosted pilgrims from Central Asia and China.
But the capital of the Kushan Empire was Purushapura (modern day Peshawar). The Kushan empire later expanded eastward into the heartland of India. The Kushan era, which lasted until 3rd Century AD, is considered the high point of Gandhara art, architecture and culture.
“The second century BC Taxila was a multi-ethnic, racial and religious society, where Greeks, Indians, Bactrian’s and Western Iranians lived together in peace, mutual tolerance in a culture, which allowed human development and finer arts,” Dr.Gul said.
Kushan rule from 80 AD to Third Century AD is considered the high point of Gandhara Civilisation, with developed finest arts, architecture and culture. Imposing stupas with gold plated minarets, precious stone work were built as were monasteries. There were edicts on rocks carrying the message of Lord Buddha. There were monasteries with students living on campus and there were beautiful Indo-Greek sculptures decorated with gold leaves and colorful paints, Brig. Gul said.
Around 450 AD came the White Huns or Hephthalites, a nomadic people from Central Asia. The Huns adopted Hinduism and the culture of the Hindu Gupta Empire which at that time was ascendant in India.
“The religious character of the region gradually shifted away from Buddhism in favor of Hinduism. Buddhism moved up through the northern passes into China and beyond. The change in religious character, which was the basis of all social life, led to a decline in the prosperity and steady erosion of Buddhism in the Gandhara region as a whole,” Brig. Gul observed.
The White Hun period beginning in 450 AD was noted for the development of Hinduism in the region, but it led to migration of Buddhists.
“With migrations started the fall of Gandhara Civilisation. A golden period which existed for some 800 years thus ended. And what was left of Gandhara thereafter, was put to sword and fire by the succeeding Muslim conquerors who mercilessly sacked, burnt and razed to the ground numerous stone built cities, monasteries, monuments and sculptures. Gandhara was forgotten, even by the story tellers,” Brig. Gul said.
During Hindu rule from about 850 AD and the Muslim conquests which followed from about 1025 AD, the Gandhara region saw constant invasions from the North-West which did not allow culture to develop. Cities and places of worship fell into disuse in the next 1500 years. The Gandhara civilization lay buried until it was discovered by Colonial British archeologists.
The Gandhara artistic tradition can be traced to the 1st century BC and it started declining in about the 8th century AD. It included painting, sculpture, coins, pottery and all the associated elements of an artistic tradition.
During the Kushan era in 1st Century AD, King Kanishka deified Lord Buddha and for the first time introduced the Buddha image which went on to proliferate so much that it defines the entire Gandhara culture. Thousands of these images small to giant monumental sizes, were produced and placed across every nook and corner of the region, especially in sacred worship sites, Brig. Gul said.
“Indeed, it was during Kanishka’s time that Buddhism saw its second revival after Ashoka. The life story of the Buddha became the staple subject matter for any and all aspects of Gandhara art. The images of Lord Buddha enshrined in chapels, stupas and monasteries continue to be found in great number to this day.”
“Gandhara art recreated life in detail. Items of everyday use such as beds and vases etc. can be clearly seen in them. Gandhara art provides us with an insight into all aspect of life of the region at the time,” Brig.Gul said.
Stupas were built to house the remains of the Buddha, Buddhist masters and monks of high stature. Besides being an architectural feat, the Stupa was a vessel for the display of the prolific Gandhara art. It encompassed sculptures, reliefs, paintings and other highly decorated elements that encased the structure which added to its beauty and its veneration as a religious site.
The Stupa was the main center of worship. In support it had the monastery, a structure with its own fully contained living area for monks. The monastery or Sangha-rama, became a huge part of the Buddhist tradition. Over time, the Sangha-rama became a self-sustaining unit, with lands for growing crops and wealth showered on them by all.
There was civic architecture as well. Some of the cities were not well planned, like Bhir near Taxila. But some were planned settlements like Sirsukh. Sirkap was somewhere in between.
Brig.Gul drew attention to the fact that although the religious landscape was dominated by Buddhism, there is evidence of other faiths intermingling and thriving in the social fabric such as Paganism, Greek religion, Jainism, Zoroastrianism and early Hinduism amongst the various other cults.
“A Zoroastrian and a Jain temple and a temple of the Sun, are in evidence on the main street of the ruins of Sirkap city along with various stupas,” he pointed out.
“In contrast to present day religious groups which go for each other’s throats, the people of Gandhara lived in harmony despite ethnic and religious variations,” Brig.Gul noted.
Prof. Dr. Ghani-ur-Rehman of the Taxila Institute of Asian civilizations, explained the symbolism of the sculptures found in the Stupas of the Gandhara era and identified the seven most important “treasures” that a Bodhisatva (a Buddha to be) should have to qualify to get that exalted status. He rationalized his choice of seven from the ten which were represented in Gandhara art.
Dr.Rahman said that there are more than 200 students in all in his institute, indicating great interest in Pakistan’s pre-Islamic past.
As testimony to the tolerance of the people of that era, Dr. Safdar Ali Shah of the Pakistan Higher Education Commission said that there are Buddhist vestiges in some mosques which were built later when the Muslims took over the Gandhara area.
India’s perilous obsession with Pakistan
By Nissim Mannathukkaren
Come Indian elections, the bogey of Pakistan has overwhelmed the nationalist discourse in the shrillest manner, with the Prime Minister and other Ministers’ relentless branding of the Congress/Opposition as ‘anti-national’ and as ‘agents of Pakistan’. Further, the Prime Minister even made an unprecedented threat of using nuclear weapons against Pakistan.
As a country born of the two-nation theory based on religion, and then having to suffer dismemberment and the consequent damage to the very same religious identity, it is obvious why Islamic Pakistan must have a hostile Other in the form of a ‘Hindu India’. But what is not obvious is why India, a (much larger) secular nation, must have a hostile antagonist in the form of Pakistan.
It is widely recognised that the fulcrum of the Pakistani state and establishment is an anti-India ideology and an obsession with India. But what has scarcely received notice is that India’s post-Independence nationalism has been equally driven by an obsession with Pakistan. Of course, this obsession acquires a pathological dimension under regimes, like the present one, which thrive on hyper-nationalism and a ‘Hindu India’ identity.
But, this hyper-nationalistic urge to ‘defeat’ Pakistan and to gloat over every victory, both real and claimed, is ultimately self-defeating, and comes with huge human and material costs. Much of these costs are hidden by jingoism masquerading as nationalism.
Words often used regarding the Pakistani state’s actions, even by critical Pakistani voices, are ‘delusional’ and ‘suicidal’, and rightly so. For, no level-headed state would seek to attain military parity with a country that is six and half times larger in population, and eight and a half times bigger economically. HussainHaqqani, the Pakistani diplomat and scholar, compared it to “Belgium rivalling France or Germany”. Pakistan’s vastly disproportionate spending on the military has been self-destructive for a poor nation.
In 1990, Pakistan was ahead of India by three places in the Human Development Index. In 2017, Pakistan was behind India by 20 ranks, a sad reflection of its ruinous policies.
More critically, the Pakistani state’s sponsorship of Islamist terror groups has been nothing less than catastrophic. What the world, including India, does not recognise is that Pakistan, ironically, is also one of the worst victims of Islamist terrorism. In the period 2000-2019, 22,577 civilians and 7,080 security personnel were killed in terrorism-related violence in Pakistan (the number of civilian/security personnel deaths from Islamist terrorism in India, excluding Jammu and Kashmir, was 926 in during 2000-2018).
The fact that Pakistan has suffered much more than India in their mutual obsession cannot hide the equally serious losses that India has undergone and is willing to undergo in its supposedly muscular pursuit of a ‘no dialogue’ policy with Pakistan.
Wars and military competition produce madness. Nothing exemplifies this more than India-Pakistan attempts to secure the Siachen Glacier, the inhospitable and highest battle terrain in the world. India alone lost nearly 800 soldiers (until 2016) to weather-related causes only. Besides, it spends around ?6 crore every day in Siachen. Operation Parakram (2001-02), in which India mobilised for war with Pakistan, saw 798 soldier deaths and a cost of $3 billion. This is without fighting a war. Add to this the human and economic costs of fighting four wars.
Granted, the proponents of India’s muscular nationalism who want only a military solution in Kashmir might close their eyes to the killings of some 50,000 Kashmiri civilians and the unending suffering of Kashmiris, but can they, as nationalists, ignore, the deaths of around 6,500 security personnel in Kashmir and the gargantuan and un-estimated costs of stationing nearly 5 lakh military/para-military/police personnel in Kashmir for 30 years?
Ten years ago, Stephen P. Cohen, the prominent American scholar of South Asia, called the India-Pakistan relationship “toxic” and notably termed both, and not just Pakistan, as suffering from a “minority” or “small power” complex in which one is feeling constantly “threatened” and “encircled”. Tellingly, he argues that it is the disastrous conflict with Pakistan that has been one of the main reasons why India has been confined to South Asia, and prevented from becoming a global power.
Here, one should ask the most pertinent question: why does India compete with Pakistan in every sphere, from military to sport, rather than with, say, China, which is comparable in size and population, and which in 1980 had the same GDP as India? (China’s GDP is almost five times that of India’s now.)
Of course, emulating China need not mean emulating its internal authoritarianism or its almost colonial, external economic expansionism. On the contrary, it is to learn from China’s early success in universalising health care and education, providing basic income, and advancing human development, which as AmartyaSen has argued, is the basis of its economic miracle. It is precisely here that India has failed, and is continuing to fail.
Therefore, despite India being one of the fastest growing major economies in the world since 1991 (yet, only ranked 147 in per capita income in 2017), its social indicators in many areas, including health, education, child and women welfare, are abysmal in comparison with China’s. Worryingly, in the focus on one-upmanship with Pakistan, India’s pace in social indicator improvement has been less than some poorer economies too. The phenomenal strides made by Bangladesh in the social sector are an example.
Here, a look at the military expenditures is revealing: while India spent $63.9 billion (2017) and Pakistan $9.6 billion (2018-19), Bangladesh spent only $3.45 billion (2018-19). Only a muscular and masculine nationalism can take pride in things such as becoming the fifth largest military spender in the world, or being the world’s second largest arms importer. The bitter truth hidden in these details is that India, ranked 130 in the HDI (and Pakistan, 150), simply cannot afford to spend scarce resources on nuclear arsenals, maintaining huge armies or developing space weapons. Besides, in an increasingly globalised world, military resolution between a nuclear India and Pakistan is almost impossible.
The more India, the largest democracy in the world, defines itself as the Other of Pakistan, a nation practically governed by the military, the more it will become its mirror. Any nation that thrives by constructing a mythical external enemy must also construct mythical internal enemies. That is why the number of people labelled ‘anti-national’ is increasing in India. India has to rise to take its place in the world. That place is not being a global superpower, but being the greatest and most diverse democracy in the world. That can only happen if it can get rid of its obsession with Pakistan.
Symbol of New (Hindu) India?
By Sanjeev Ahluwalia
BJP president Amit Shah is technically correct to say that SadhviPragya Thakur, one of the accused in the September 2008 Malegaon (Maharashtra) bomb blast case, who is on bail, has a right, under our liberal electoral laws, to contest the elections. It hardly matters that she voluntarily claimed being part of the Hindutava forces which had pulverised the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 and that an FIR has been registered against her by the Madhya Pradesh police on the orders of the Election Commission.
A galaxy of BJP leaders headed by Lal Krishna Advani, who went on to become deputy prime minister, and Hindutava firebrands Version 1 from the 1990s era — SadhviRithambra, VinayKatiar, Hari Vishnu Dalmia, et al — were criminally indicted for conspiracy but let off by a CBI special court in 2001. The Allahabad high court upheld the order of acquittal in 2010. But curiously, the Supreme Court directed that the case be revived in April 2017, under the NarendraModi government.
To be honest, there was little reason, back then, not to indict both Kalyan Singh, the BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and P.V. Narasimha Rao, the Congress Prime Minister. Culpability for dereliction of duty runs deep and inefficiencies in the judicial system help gaming transgressors.
Our laws consequently acknowledge this judicial gap and do not bar a candidate from political office, even though serious criminal charges have been drawn up in court against the person and a trial is under way.
But that does not fully explain why the BJP chose her. After all, Bhopal is not just any other seat. It is the capital of Madhya Pradesh and she has been pitted against Digvijay Singh, a former chief minister of the state and a senior Congress leader.
More to the point, isn’t she out of sync with the BJP government’s soothing signature tune of “Sabkasaath, sabkavikas” (with everyone, for everyone)? Does this signal a major change in stance and hitherto is revisionist social policy likely to overshadow the imperative for economic growth?
Pragya Thakur has no qualms about evoking her mystical powers to “damn” (curse) her opponents, demonstrating a conflation between her private well-being and that of all Hindus — a distinction which is necessary in those holding public office. But ascetics and mystics live by the code of “bhakti” — a submersive ecosystem, in which the followers are one with the guru. This leaves no space for the rule of earthly, common law.
Bhakts believe the spiritual power of an ascetic’s curse causes irreparable harm. Such pervasive, blind faith begs the question — should India have lawmakers who exult in evoking their spiritual powrs to shield themselves from the law?
Given these rough edges, what compelled the Modi-Shah team to field SadhviPragya from Bhopal? Two motivations suggest themselves.
First, electoral strength breeds hubris. Nominating Pragya Thakur sends the message that a new, assertively Hindu India is on its way and those with different views should make way.
Hinduism is resilient because it absorbs and subsumes other beliefs. Think Tamil Nadu 70 years ago. Anti-Brahmanism, rationalism and primacy for Tamil culture and language — versus Hindi — drove the atheist Dravida movement to its peak. Today, with political power firmly with the Tamil middle castes, ritualistic Hinduism is resurgent in Tamil Nadu.
Hinduism facilitates Sanskritisation — a religious version of the Stockholm syndrome, where the marginalised empathise with and seek to emulate their oppressors, thereby perpetuating the status quo.
Even the Congress Party has succumbed. The symbols of ritualistic Hinduism — special prayers at temples and endorsements from Hindu religious leaders — are the norm. This is canny, since Muslims and Christians have nowhere else to go, at the national level — though the BahujanSamaj Party and the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh; Trinamul Congress in West Bengal; TelanganaRashtraSamiti in Hyderabad, the Communists in Kerala and the AamAdmi Party in Delhi offer classically secular, regional alternatives.
An alternative driver behind Pragya Thakur’s nomination could be sheer desperation, in the absence of a NarendraModi wave, unlike 2014. After all, the party lost Madhya Pradesh along with two other cow belt states to the Congress only a few months ago during the state Assembly elections. Fielding the Sadhvi is sure to rake up Hindu resentment against the Congress for subscribing to a counter narrative of “Hindu terror” around the 2008 bomb blasts. The credibility of our police agencies has sunk so low that in the public’s perception, the “caged parrot” syndrome of ruling party capture, overrides the merits of any police action.
But multiple poll surveys, thus far, do not validate significant electoral loss for the BJP. The most recent endorsement comes from SurjitBhalla’s new book Citizen Raj: Indian Elections 1952-2019. He forecasts a simple majority of 274 for the BJP on its own. Lord Meghnad Desai, a British peer of Indian origin, also endorses a clear win.
NarendraModi is no one’s tool. Were he to succeed, his game would be to tame the tiger that he is riding. This is risky. But a more grounded strategy could well emerge, which seeks to rid Hinduism of its caste-based fractures; infuse the religion with modern concepts of universal human rights and worry more about generating income and wealth for all, rather than protecting India from without whilst dividing it from within.
The Modi-Shah duo’s dodgy electoral tactics are not new. Encouraging social divisiveness; kitchen cabinets to bypass government structures; centralisation of authority; a quasi-presidential form of campaigning and the systematic decimation of potential opponents — all these have all been used by other parties in the past. Banyan tree leadership is hardly unique to today’s BJP.
What is new is the blinding speed with which the Modi-Shah team has executed their strategy of building a “New India” — a narrative which promises to change social endowments and norms in ways that have never visualised previously. Status quoists will resist this seismic makeover. Beneficiaries will support it. Make up your mind, dear reader, where you belong.
‘The TINA trick’
By Anil Dharker
This state of despondency arises from many factors, the major one being the disappointment with the performance of NarendraModi’s government (bhakts always excepted).
Two abbreviations crop up in any conversation about the elections. Both give a dispiriting picture of the mood of the nation. The acronyms are NOTA and TINA, which as we all know, expand to None Of The Above and There Is No Alternative.
This state of despondency arises from many factors, the major one being the disappointment with the performance of NarendraModi’s government (bhakts always excepted). In 2014, there was a genuine Modi Wave caused by disillusionment with UPA’s drift and its alleged corruption; in direct contrast were Modi’s enticing promises of “development” and rooting out corruption and black money. The disasters of demonetisation and GST, rising unemployment and the unaddressed tragedy of agrarian distress has taken the sheen off Modi’s many promises.
NarendraModi knows; everyone in the BJP knows; thinking party supporters (bhakts always excepted) also know, that repeating the same promises again and again doesn’t fulfil them — action does — but implementation has either been negligible, or poor. This is why not one single speech of Modi talks of his government’s performance. It’s a strange thing to hear a prime minister going to the people for re-election without a word about five years of his government. Instead, he talks about his “muscular response” to Pakistan and he talks about Hindutva in a demagogic way reminiscent of Bal Thackeray, using words which a chief election commissioner like T N Seshan would have acted more strongly against.
Sadly, the EC is not the only institution the Modi government has eviscerated. If you really wanted to know what the BJP government has achieved in its five-year term, it’s this: Every institution, the Enforcement Directorate, CBI, the police in BJP-ruled states, the Income Tax department… name them, and they do the government’s bidding, even if many of their actions on the eve of elections are clearly political in nature and meant to influence the electorate.
This is where the TINA factor comes in. Even BJP supporters disillusioned with NarendraModi ask: If not Modi, who will be PM? Rahul Gandhi? Mamata Banerjee? Mayawati? They find all these options unacceptable. Unfortunately, people have short memories. Political turmoil brought in prime ministers as diverse as Morarji Desai, V P Singh, I K Gujral, Chandra Shekhar, DeveGowda and Charan Singh. Not all of them were a disaster. In any case, all of them were in the chair for just around a year each (except Desai, who had two years), far too short a time to judge a prime minister’s performance. More than that, it’s important to note the classic definition of a prime minister in a functioning democracy: He is the first among equals in the council of ministers. Would anyone in the present cabinet dare say that of NarendraModi? No wonder the BJP’s slogan for 2019 is “phirekbaar, Modisarkar”. And its manifesto is replete with photographs of Modi, significantly even on the cover. Apart from re-emphasising that Modi’s council of ministers consists of lightweights; the slogan underlines the fact that the BJP government is Modi, Modi and Modi. That’s how the TINA factor gets reinforced as part of the BJP’s planned campaign strategy.
Contrast that with the Congress’s slogan, “abhoga NYAY’, a play on the Hindi word to mean justice as well as highlight the party’s ambitious social welfare programme, with which it hopes to make an impact on the elections. It also removes any hint of a personality cult in the party, although clearly, Rahul Gandhi is the prime force in the election campaign. Perhaps, it’s also a tacit admission that the public perception of Rahul Gandhi as an unsuitable candidate for prime ministership hasn’t changed, although the man himself has grown impressively into a leadership role. But you need an open mind to notice that, and an open mind doesn’t seem to be a common attribute of our electorate, especially its urban component. The more educated you are, the more you are likely to hold on to your prejudices.
An interesting point to note is that even Indira Gandhi, a towering personality if ever there was one, used the slogan “garibihatao”, and not a personality-centric one. But that concealed the fact that she ruled her government and her party with an iron fist. Another interesting point to note is that in his constant attacks on “The Family” and “Dynasty”, Modi hasn’t said a word against Indira Gandhi. For all his visceral hatred of the Nehru-Gandhis, Modi is strangely silent about Indira: There’s obviously an unspoken and sneaking admiration there. When you think about it, it’s really not surprising. Indira Gandhi was the government, and no one else mattered. NarendraModi is the government, and he has made sure no one else matters. For all those enamoured of strong leadership, it might be salutary to remember its perils: Mrs Gandhi imposed the Emergency, she nationalised banks (a disaster in the long run), she abolished privy purses (a constitutional guarantee), she subverted most of our institutions, including even the judiciary, and she used departments like Income Tax to get even with political opponents. Aren’t the parallels uncanny? On the other hand, low-key, self-effacing personalities like LalBahadurShastri and Narasimha Rao made excellent prime ministers; in fact, the former had he not died so tragically early, may have lived to be our best PM ever.
NOTA, of course, is an expression of dissatisfaction with the whole political process, and who can blame people when we see the way our electioneering has been conducted, with its abuse and personal invective? But NOTA is not an option; the option really is this: Better not the devil we know than the devil we don’t, because the latter may turn out to be not a devil at all.
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