Saturday, 25 July 2015

Retribution - Reparation... And Colonialism

Call it reparation, or call it payback – or call it retribution; call it what you will. The latest speech by Dr Shashi Tharoor has, once again, brought the colonial memory to the fore of the public consciousness; sad part is that it failed to ignite a debate on the issue of the colonial damage, and the payback and apologies by Britain, or their absence. It lead to a series of plaudits – well deserved, no doubts – on Dr Tharoor; but, by and large, completely failed to tackle the larger issue of an apology and return of the loot by The United Kingdom.



Why should the UK do either when the raped party is itself silent and acquiescing in the matter? There is no pressure on them to do so; that they will never apologise and compensate by themselves is a given. We aren’t in the Satyug; and the Great West is far from being the model of fairness and justice that it claims to be. That leaves us to wallow in our own self-pity, and / or our own ambitions and desires…



THE PERSONAL ASPECT


You have a "want" and then you have a "should"



First, the "Want"



Do I want the money? You bet I do! Every Single Penny the British took from us :  Each.and.every.single.penny. We know the amount; we have the proof; we have the period evidence; we can calculate NPV. I want it back, make no mistake. It is ours, and we can prove it beyond a shade of doubt with solid, irrefutable period evidence - yearwise, datewise and monthwise.



The contention that how far back do we go is not tenable, because the pillage was based on the destruction of the industrial base of India {Yes, we did have industries- large numbers of them}, the agricultural base of India. Add to that the planned destruction of our arts, culture, self-respect etc. The current problems of India are directly traceable to the Raj. Prior to the Raj, the economic status is also well-documented and pretty much beyond debate, establishing the cause of our penury beyond a shade of doubt.



Interested people can refer my previous articles  for details of books and references containing documented proofs}



Apologies : now what good is that? It means a lot to us : but how can we be sure that they mean it? That it isnt insincere? That is why, I dont hold much store by an apology. Dont want it. If you are truly apologetic - show it. Give us back what is ours : you can start with the Kohinoor. The rest is open to negotiation! That is also why in the strategic analysis below, I have not even touched on an apology. They can keep their crocodile tears. 



THE STRATEGIC ASPECT


Now, The "Should"


Should we ask for it? Make it an issue? Answer : No. The international situation effectively means that any such move would be counter-productive, and self-inflicted damage. That is manifestly unfair, given the damages given to other countries as others have stated, and the apologies; but the world isnt a fair place. Further, for us, survival comes first; economic and diplomatic realities preclude such a possibility as of now. It would be stupid; and we arent stupid, that I am sure all readers would agree to quite wholeheartedly.



Further, using under-handed tactics a-la USA, Pakistan etc also is out; such practices come back to hit the perpetrator. We do anything like that - and our loss is pretty much  a guarantee. Third, and most important. do the majority of Indians want a repayment or some kind of a reparation? There, we are in the land of conjecture. We have no way of knowing; and this {majority opinion} is a vital matter - we are a democracy.



But. if the majority wants it - some kind of a payback {maybe not the entire amount, of course} - then, the situation changes dramatically. It would empower the Government to act, and put some serious pressure on them. The pressure would not be needed, of course; if the majority want it, it will reflect automatically in the policy stance; it then becomes only a question of time.



And, in an even slightly altered international context- it is conceivable that we can put the screws on the West real h.a.r.d, and make them cough up. As of now, that is far fetched... but in 1857, who would have thought that we would kick the Britishers out from our holy land in a short span of 90 years? Just because the present does not warrant such an action on our part does not mean we forget. The reason is that we as a nation are still paying the price of the colonial rape – in everything from security issues to the problems of poverty that are plaguing us.



The question then arises, how can we do it? In a world economy with a powerhouse India and its economy, with a comparable military might, it would be mighty hard for The Great West to fend us off. That is beyond argument. That is why - if we want our money back - just about the only way is to develop our economy, make it far more relevant to world trade - and then.... hit back. HARD. Tell 'em ; cough up, or F-Off. End Game; Game-Set-Match India. The pay-off can be in various terms and forms: better trade terms, preferential trade terms, hard cash, market access, strategic benefits, technology free of charge, etc etc. That is open to negotiation; as I look at in the second and concluding part of this mini-series



Sounds Far Fetched? Yup, as on date it probably is. But History is stranger than fiction, and stranger things have happened.



That is why it is vital that Indians be reminded of our past, and the price we have paid. Repeatedly reminded. Not just for this reason : it tells a lesson that we cannot trust The West. Note what happened since independence for proof, and look to the continuing blind support to Pakistan for more proof, or a cursory glance at the trade and economic realities of the modern post-colonial world.



The West may believe the story of colonialism is over; I suspect it hasnt even started yet. Quite apart from the fact that colonialism never really died – it just changed form into a shape that fools us into believing all is right again; the reality is that the Ghosts Of The Past haven’t been laid to rest yet. What happened was just the prologue; picture abhi baaki hai. Till inequality exists, the threat given above will remain. And for inequality to be lessened requires The West to start sacrificing in the here and the now. And you can rest assured, that wont happen; not for a very long time – if at all.



And with increasing inequality in an atmosphere where every colonised nation dreams of the same level of development of The Great West, the pre-existing fissures will be ruthlessly opened and renewed, past wrongs brought to the fore. That is what scares me. These deepening fissures in an atmosphere of desire and naked ambition for growth are already visible; you cannot deny the downtrodden nations their desire for growth. But that will come at a cost; what that cost is to be is for us to determine as a people, and as a human race…



Why should we ask for compensation? How should we go about it? What form should this compensation take? What are the strategic repercussions or alternatives, and what are our internal pressures and realities? How is colonialism not yet dead? These are all  questions I take up in the concluding part of this 2-part mini-series. Let me close this article with a thought-provoking piece by Pankaj Mishra :




The sense of humiliation that burdened... Asians has greatly diminished; The rise of Asia and the assertiveness of the Asian Peoples consummates their revolt against the West that began more than a century ago; it is in many ways the revenge of the East. Yet this success contains an immense intellectual failure, one that has profound ramifications for the world today and the near future. It is simply this: no convincingly universalist response exists today to Western ideas of politics and economy...

The war on terror has already blighted the first decade. In retrospect, however, it may seem a prelude to greater and bloodier conflicts over precious resources and commodities that modernising as well as already modern economies need. The hope that fuels the endless economic growth - that billions of consumers in India and China will one day enjoy the lifestyles of Europeans and Americans - is as absurd and dangerous a fantasy as anything dreamt up by Al-Qaeda. It condemns the global environment to early destruction and looks set to create reservoirs of nihilistic rage and disappointment among hundreds of millions of have-nots - the bitter outcome of the universal triumph of Western modernity, which turns the revenge of the East into something darkly ambiguous, and all its victories truly pyrrhic... : Pankaj Mishra, From The Ruins Of Empire - The Revolt Against The West And The Rise Of Asia



In closing. I can only say with infinite sadness that The Great West should pay heed to their own literature, and study their own history. Sad part is, they will never do so. And that terrifies me. Picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost; abhi toh interval bhi nahi hua hai! The story is just unfolding; it isnt even half-way over yet – of that, I am certain. 



Though the mills of God grind slowly; 
Yet they grind exceeding small; 
Though with patience He stands waiting, 
With exactness grinds He all.

"Retribution" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow






Thursday, 23 July 2015

Being Indian - 4 : The Ultimate Triumph Of The West

This is the 4th article in the Being Indian Series : carrying on from the previous one - Being Indian - 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery, where I examined our so-called slavery of a 1000 years.



The impact of Colonialism on the psyche of a people and a society is a tale that needs to be told, highlighted so that firstly, healing can start; and secondly, harmful and at times divisive ideas and ideologies can be nipped in the bud. The rising feeling of a so-called ‘Hindu’ resurgence /  freedom for 1000 years of slavery / rising sectarianism / other factors, has its roots in the colonial experience, the true extent of which is not known to Indians even in the modern day; if they do know, the realization of its import is sadly absent, as shown by current events.



The assumption, gaining popular ground increasingly in a currently niche segment of our population, that we have been slaves for a 1000 years, is sadly not based on facts; this is a telling failure of our education system, which has done an admittedly laudable job of not feeding hatred against anyone; the unfortunate result of this has been an incomplete understanding of our history, particularly the history of the British rule. Further, the education system has also not been able to keep track of the socio-political changes that are being wrought  by the rise of various forces. But that is another story, to be taken up in another series. Let us leave this thought here for the time being.



Before we move into Colonialism, let us ask ourselves one question: was so-called Muslim rule, or were the Muslim dynasties really as harmful as the British? Second, why did the Muslim rulers gain a footage in this land? What did they cart away, and what did they give back to society? And what is the comparison with the British period? The hard reality is that for most of our history, it has always been the internal traitor – who was like as not a “Hindu”, who was also responsible somewhere along the line! Remember Jaichand? Hasn’t it always been our penchant to call the outsider? Furthermore, we were always divided as a people – can we run away from that? Why did we not wake up and build defences – it took 17 attacks by one particular Gentleman from the Middle East to awaken us - ­­several hundred years later? Even after innumerable attacks – Greeks, Huns, etc : we were still asleep and mindless of our own vulnerability? What were we doing all these years? Sleeping?



Not only that, Muslim rule was built upon alliances and relationships with Non-Muslim rulers as well; and large tracts of India were consistently out of Muslim yoke. I am not denying the excesses that took place; I am only saying while acknowledging the excesses, also acknowledge that good that happened; that will put the entire matter in the proper perspective. In the case of The British period, we are quick to point out the good  - democracy, unity, railways, administration etc, without conceding the bad, or analyzing the extent of the good and the bad, and the intent behind the good. By contrast, nothing good apparently happened in Muslim ruled areas, if you believe some people. Is that a fair assessment?



It is a known historical fact that in the lead-up to British rule, our international trade relationships were strong; be it spices, or be it textiles. In fact, Shivaji Maharaj actually started building a strong navy for the express purpose of defending traders from British and European piracy on the high seas. Keep in mind that the British came to India for trade, or to put it more accurately, under the guise of trade. We were known exporters with a large share of world trade and GDP; these profits from this trade stayed within India, and were not drained out to alien lands.



There was no attempt to play with the socio-cultural fabric of the society; which, given the collusion of Islamic rules with local chieftains, kings and nobility, was a given. Politically there were issues, true; there were instances of persecution, and sad happenings like Jizyaa tax, and the sporadic odd ruler who was a fanatic, like Aurangzeb. Granted. But the people were, by and large, much better off under the previous political setup than in the later British period. And that is the key to the matter! Local industries thrived; agriculture was productive, and taxation which varied from mild to slightly excessive, was not even a patch on that exploitation under British rule. There was no attempt to divide the people, or to create religious and caste tensions.



But what happened in British rule? The Bengal experience and example shows in vivid detail the pillage that occurred in economic terms, leading to a massive famine, and the ruin of a once-rich land to a condition of penury. A land where famine was sporadic, now was jolted by famine after famine every few years, as documented history tells. An estimated 40-60 Million Indians are supposed to have died due to famines alone.  These weren’t just Hindus – they were Indians of all castes, religions. Taxation increased to  50-80% of the produce; farmers were not free to grow what they wanted- cropping changes were forced; these are just 2 examples of the interference that happened. This did not happen during Muslim rule, and that is a fact.



Local Industries were destroyed; business profits plunged to a fraction of the old within a few years of the onset of British rule; weavers – for example – reduced to beggars, creating the begging problem in a land where no beggars were known on so wide a scale; landless labour class expanded dramatically as profits from agriculture dipped, creating a massive nationwide class of landless labour; Zamindari strengthened through direct intervention; industry after industry collapsed, as the inverted duty structures made imports cheaper than home-grown products for the first time in our history; new technology inflow reduced to zero; education losing steam and focus…



Next came the interventions in Religion, and the targeted conversions that started to happen on a scale not seen before – targeting all religions; and on top of all this, was the denigration and destruction of the local arts and culture scene, with Indian habits, cultural occasions and arts being targeted and derided; the advent of cultural imperialism, and the way it interrupted the development of our arts and culture; the way an ugly combination of livelihood dependency on knowledge of the English Language, and constant debasement of everything Indian by the British became associated in the minds of the people with western superiority, giving rise to a  plethora of modern issues…



But worst of all was the destruction of the socio-political fabric of this lovely nation, a fabric that had ensured its continued dominance and survival for millennia, despite its many faults and flaws. This is to be taken up in the concluding 5th part of the Being Indian Series, so let us leave this thought here. Point to be noted here is that in Trade, Industry, Arts, Culture, Economics, Religion – in just about each and every sphere of societal and political mileu in India, it is the British Rule which stands out as being the most harmful and divisive in our long history.



No period of our history has had as many tragic stories happening simultaneously on so large a scale, as under British Rule. The period prior to British rule, while not without its issues and problems, was a period of relative prosperity and growth, the many problems notwithstanding. Merchant guilds, industries, factories, agriculture scenario, trade routes and nationwide trade networks were all vital and strong just prior to the British, that is  a fact. By contrast, under British rule, wealth- which previously stayed within India, not started going out of India…



This was both through sanctioned as well as unofficial loot. Unbelievably high taxation, paying for the enite edifice of colonialism alongwith its massive perks and high expenses through internal money, the repatriation of around a full 50% of the annual budget to England; the taxation outflows, with Indian goods taxed at 80% and imports at 20%, unpaid war debts, which were as high as 40% approximately of total British war debts {as per some estimates}; complete destruction of both agriculture as well as industry as viable professions for Indians; destructions of trade routes and networks are all of British origin, and none from so-called Muslim rule.



Add to this the slaughter : the genocide of 1857, the innumerable famines, the brutal suppression of uprisings and freedom movements across India – and you have a tale of disaster that is unparalleled anywhere. The British denuded us of our wealth, and built their own developed World on our money; not only that, they also got us to believe in our own inferiority in military, economic as well as cultural terms; this was not present earlier. This is the true victory of the British Empire : getting the strongest, most resilient and innovative people on the planet to believe they are backward, decadent, weak and defenseless, and that Western culture is superior. This continuing belief in the superiority of Western Culture is the ultimate and lasting triumph of The British Raj, alongside the absolute, complete and total success of the policy of divide and rule, getting brother to question brother, getting us to question our selves, rather than our rapists…


        

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Call Of The Peacock...



I was initially not going to pen a blog on Wildlife Conservation, despite receiving a notification from Saevus Wildlife India; the reason : any article on so important and yet excusive a topic as this one has to come from the heart for it to be even remotely effective. I was not feeling the inspiration, the reason for the post; without that inspiration – no point in even participating, and being ineffectual. I had no wish to degrade the stellar efforts of conservationists by penning something uninspirational… and then… suddenly, from the deep recesses of my mind echoed a memory, a memory that will remain with me for as long as I live… the distinctive and unforgettably plaintive “kaiyon, kaiyon”… The Call Of The Peacock…


Birds I have heard aplenty; from the bulbul to the sparrow; but the call of the peacock… that is special; very, very special to me as an individual.  I lived for a full 4 years among a dozen, maybe more, free peacocks; they would strut around on the parapet of my rather large balcony, or play and strut around in the mango groves surrounding my residence… and every single day I would be treated to the fabulous and awesome call of the peacock. I tried listening to it on a youtube video – and you know something? No comparison; you have to feel, hear and experience The Call Of The Peacock, a free-spirited and free peacock, to truly appreciate the wonder of the Call Of The Peacock…


And then, I noticed that the Peacock is endangered {low risk}… and I recalled the memory of the only time in all those years I saw a peacock dancing and displaying its lovely beauty; a video is no comparison… I cannot explain it; the magic of the opportune moment as I was walking home from School, and chanced upon the peacock cannot be forgotten… Oh, for seeing that beauty and purity in the wild and free once again… just once more…  and there it was : my inspiration for this post… which is why I call this article, “The Call Of The Peacock”!

Indian Peacock,Ranthambhore National Park,Rajasthan

I can give any number of reasons for the peacock’s importance : from Religion to Culture, but I wont. If I state religion, then it means that we conserve only the limited organisms that have religious relevance as it is commonly understood. Separate matter that Sanaatan Dharm specifically teaches conservation and protection of all beings. Similar is the case for culture; but to me, the biggest reason : if these living beings, God’s lovely creations, were to vanish, we would be missing something truly wondrous, lovely and fantabulous.


Just think of a world where the only place you can hear The Call Of The Peacock is a youtube video… sad, a very sad place indeed! It is an experience, as the plaintive call echoes across the homes, woods and the environment, leaving in its wake a momentary vacancy, a hanging tantalizing moment of sheer silence… of, for listening to that “Kaiyoooo---n!” once more in the wild, as I did in Gwalior, the campus of my Aunts’ College… and for the period once again, when the peacock would strut around everywhere, fearless and confident that it is safe…



MOVING ON…

Conservation of wildlife isn’t just about the lions and the tigers of this world; everything is connected. Scientifically speaking we need to conserve for the perfectly selfish reason that for us to survive, we need to keep the ecological balance; you might say, what’s one more species when so many thousands have vanished? True, perfectly true. Just one thing : please identify that one single species, and the place where we stop. It will always be, what’s one species more or less? Until that fateful day when we will all remember that lovely Agatha Christie Novel :  And Then There Were None…


Not all of you will identify with scientific reasons; not all of you will identify with the peacock; you have to have lived that experience to understand the pull of the dance, and sheer power of The Call Of The Peacock. But all of us would have had some memorable interaction with nature : even if it is in your morning walk. Even if it is with the lumbering Elephant, the image of The Lord Ganesh… or even the Scary Cobra {To us, the Cobra is the Naag – which we worship on Nagpanchami}. Pray tell, what use is a Nagpanchami prayer if there are no Naags around? Is that anyway to show respect for the very image of whom we worship?


I hate to take recourse to Religion, but all adherents of Sanaatan Dharm are requested to recall whom we worship. Most, if not all, Gods we worship explicitly include associations with Animals or Birds, from the Mooshak of Lord Ganesh, to even the Peacock, who is associated with Goddess Laxmi if I am not wrong. And if we are not doing anything to protect them – or doing our utmost to not cause any further damage, or even try and maintain and improve the situation within practical bounds, what does that say of us as a people?


But I digress; let me not take recourse to religious imagery exclusively. Think of the wonder of The Blackbuck – and those sweeping horns and elegant horns; if you have seen that sight; if you have been lucky enough to spot the beauty of the Blackbuck in the freedom of a national park, you are a lucky person. The Blackbuck does not have any brute strength – but just as The Peacock symbolizes beauty and purity, to my eyes The Blackbuck symbolizes sheer elegance, grace, demeanor and speed. The elegance of the Blackbuck  can teach us how to live, and that we don’t need brute power – but rather, we should be having Grace, Elegance, Demeanor and Blinding Speed of reaction…


Blackbuck,Velavadar National Park,Gujarat
Again, that is a sight to be experienced, not in a zoo, not in a video – but live. You have to feel that confidence, that grace and let it percolate into your being; you have to let yourself go into the moment, dissolve into your environ and your surroundings, and live that moment… let it become a cherished memory; you have to love that moment, and if you do, if you can let yourself go and immerse yourself – you will get a treasure trove of fabulous memories, and a lifetime’s worth of practical lessons, all just from watching the grace of the Blackbuck… or listening to The Call Of The Peacock…

Asiatic Elephant,Rajiv Gandhi National Park(Nagarhole),Karnataka

Or indeed, the immovable and staid movement of The Elephant. If the Peacock can teach us purity and beauty, if the blackbuck can teach us grace, speed and elegance – The Elephant can teach us to be staid and immovable; permanent – just as our land and our history. In each Indian City I have lived in – The Elephant has been a permanent visitor, and I have spotted Elephants in each city. Sadly, I am yet to experience the Elephant in the wild, as a free spirit; unlike the Blackbuck and The Peacock, both of which I have been extremely lucky to have experienced.


But The Asiatic Elephant, to call it by its right name? Never. Not even once; the only memories I hold of it is the captive animal, in chains, or as a tamed animal – not a free spirit, not a wild and roaming huge creature of the environment; the juxtaposition of the two free experiences -  Peacock and Blackbuck, as compared to The Elephant in its captivity holds a big lesson for me. But more pertinent, if there are no Elephants, it wont make a difference to us – {what’s one more, isn’t it?} – but it will take some small bit of the uniqueness out of our cities, and some small part of the charm out of our nation…


One  - The Blackbuck, from The Wild; one – The Peacock, which has lived among humans for years, just requiring a wooded area for the sustenance of the birds; and one-  a captive, yet which adds infinite charm to our cities. Three examples, from three experiences from three divergent walks of life. If these weren’t there, there would not be much of a material difference to me immediately; but somewhere, somehow, my life would have had  a lot less  charm in it, and some memories, cherished memories would not have taken place…  good enough reason for me to start caring a whole lot more for the environment, and the endangered species. I want my son to have the same experiences and joys that I did as a growing child…


Sad part is, in the modern concrete jungle, these experiences have now all but vanished, like…

The Call Of The Peacock…


 I am participating in the Save the Species contest for the book “Capturing Wildlife Moments in India” in association with Saevus Wildlife India,  read the reviews for the book ‘Capturing Wildlife Moments in India’ here

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Being Indian - 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery





A cursory glance at Modern India will reveal a deepening line of historical misinterpretation in some fringe segments of our society which tends to place inordinate emphasis on the myth of Free Rule after 800 or 1000 years of slavery or foreign rule; the same fringe tends to place a huge emphasis on the mythical relatively heavier persecution during the Muslim Dynasties that ruled various parts of India from around 1150-1200 AD onwards  till around 1675-1700 AD. These people make the first and most glaring error when they claim Muslim Rule was till 1850AD or thereabouts, which is a sad comment on the state of our history education, which needs revamping in totality in my opinion.



The record shows that throughout the 18th century, from around 1700 AD or a few years before that, the pre-eminent rising power in India was the Maratha Empire, which by the mid-18th century was the most powerful ruler in India, and continued in that status till the Anglo-Maratha wars and their ultimate vanquishment, but that is another story to be told later. The same record also shows the rise of the Sikh power to the North of India, and their rising pre-eminence and importance in the equation. There may have been other powers of which I am not aware. Thus, one part of the narrative is demonstrably false; high time we examined this narrative in a little more detail to get a better perspective.



A slightly more detailed examination throws up many more spanners in the theory of 800 or 1000 years of alien domination, without even touching upon the fact that the invaders from outside made India their home, and all the wealth of India remained inside India. This examination will reveal the might of the Rajputs and their valiant defiance and indomitable spirit; it will reveal the story of Hukka and Bukka who formed the resplendent Vijaynagar Empire in the Deccan, and its unbelievable power.  It will reveal the co-habitation and increasing cooperation between Sanataanis {the actual term for Hindus} and Musliims, and the political alliances that were struck; it will also expose how rise to the uppermost echelons of power in the medieval nation was not dependent on religion, and that many a Muslim ruler had scores of Sanaatani Generals and Nobles, and vice-versa



But beyond all of this, and far more serious and worrying is the rhetoric, currently in the fringes and completely unimportant, is the myth that Sanaatanis were persecuted most heavily during Muslim rule, or should I say so-called Muslim Rule. Firstly, it is a fact that Muslim Rule was dependent in large part and was supported and set up by the unwavering loyalty and support of powerful feudal and noble leaders of all religious persuasions, as well as deep and highly successful political alliances with non-Muslim rulers in Medieval India.



While the above  may be argued, and quite convincingly at that, that there were vast differences between dynasties in this matter, the attendant rising rhetoric of the heaviest persecution of Sanaatan Dharm followers is pure nonsense, and has no basis in fact. While there were undoubtedly persecution examples that occurred in that era, the fact remains that this wasn’t even a patch on what all of India went through under British rule, which makes Muslim rule a Golden Period in comparison – which it was in many, many ways, while also being indirectly responsible for our fall from grace.  But, are the Muslim Rulers alone to blame for that? That is the topic of the next article; let us leave this line of thought here for the time being.



Even if we accept that some persecution happened in some periods of Muslim rule { Which we have to, given that some persecution undoubtedly did happen}, how is it a smart or even an acceptable retelling to exclusively focus on these sins that happened against Sanaatan Dharm followers, completely omitting the far more serious attacks on our culture, religion and way of life that happened between 1757 and 1947? Why this completely one-sided narrative? That itself is enough to raise deep questions, and convincing ones, on the accuracy of the rhetorical narrative that is gaining currency. A fair retelling would also acknowledge the extensive damage of the more recent period!



But the rhetoric focuses on only  the damage during one specific period of our history, without an attendant acknowledgement of the many documented benefits that accrued from the same period, or the continuous growth of the economic engine, or the continued performance of our many trade routes with Central Asia; or indeed the fact that the money remained within India, and was not bled away, or the performance of agriculture and the growth of the Merchants and Industrialists. Neither does this rhetoric acknowledge the control of Non-Muslims over vast swathes of India, or that Non-Muslims were an essential cog in the ruling Muslim rulers administrative as well as Armed Forces machinery! No attempt is made to examine the lives of the common folk even.



 Moving on, let us look at British rule and lay the facts of the persecution, and how it was much more severe than anything during the previous era.  British rule destroyed the core and the bedrock of every single aspect of our wonderful society: each-and-every-single-facet. Arts, culture, religion, society, caste, everything, Documented fact. There was a plan to make India 100% Christian : fact. There was a plan to Europeanise India {specific words : they will remain burned into my conscience for as long as I live : raise a European Element in the population}. {{USA / Australia / South Africa Anyone?}}



Arts were destroyed - repeat, destroyed. Or attempted to. Fact. Casteism hardened : fact. Religious equiilibrium destroyed : Fact. A land where corruption was not known, became corrupt as there was no other way to survive. Fact. Indianism denigrated at every level : fact. Education taken apart {oh yes, medieval India had Excellent schooling} : fact. Manufacturing base destroyed : fact. Agriculture productivity, earlier among the finest anywhere : destroyed : fact. :Landless labour created from nothing : fact. Crafts wrecked : fact.



No such dire poverty over so large an area was ever before known on the planet." : A report from a European on India, 1907. ". Making every possible allowance, it is clearly established that, comparing the Indian Exports and the Indian Imports, the overplus of Exports for which there is no commercial return now amounts to more than £35,000,000 a year, or considerably in excess of fifty per cent more than the total Land Revenue obtained from all British India[2] This drain has been going on in an increasing ratio, and necessarily with deepening effect, ever since the British occupation. It means that India, naturally a country with the greatest possibilities for wealth-production in every department, is being steadily bled to death" {Ruin of India by British Rule - Hyndman, Stuttgart, 1907. I have read reports from as far back as 1757 as well that provide corroboration – Durant, 1930; RC Dutt, 1906; as well as several contemporary books, which give detailed numbers with original period evidence as proof of the loot that happened yearwise}



That is nearly 4 Billion Dollars per years surplus in today's money, or 25,266 Crores in Rupees. That is for JUST ONE YEAR. This had happened for 190 years. One hundred and ninety years! By the way. and by the by, that calculation above was an internet finance site that takes into consideration inflation rates only, which is neither here nor there. If we consider that the surplus went into building factories, amenities, funding research and development.... IMHO we can compound at an assumed arbitrary rate of 8%. That makes 11.4 BILLION Dollars for one year alone. Or 72464Crores rupees for ONE YEAR. This wealth stayed within India during the so-called bad Muslim Rule! Modern India’s current external debt interest payments are in the region of 9-10 Billion yearly. That puts the matter in the right perspective!



Neither is the contention of deaths maintainable in the light of documented facts; the famine record of British India alone would put the entire 9000-year history to shame shadow in the mortality rate. The number of deaths is thought to be in the region of 50-68 Million deaths attributable to the British policies – and this is just due to the famines. There was a massive famine in Bengal within a few years of British Rule that is known to have wiped out large parts of the entire population, accounting for well over 10 Million Deaths. The Famine of 1942-44, proven to be due to British rule, also was as bad, accounting for more than 5 Million deaths. Such things were not known in Muslim Rule.



The genocide of 1857, carried out against civilians, is well studied and documented, with an untold number of civilian deaths, with some records putting the toll at 10 Million! This genocide was carried out against an entire people, across large parts of India in a targeted strategy. The brutal suppression of revolt after revolt, and numerous freedom attempts is also a matter of record. Not one word of this reaches the fringe rhetoric, that is also a fact. But far more than these is the targeted destruction of the entire way of life that we used to live, our crafts, arts, religion, as well as our pride in our way  of life. That is what I take up in detail in the next part of this 5-part mini-series…



High time we Indians recognized that this is just a colonial hangover, and a direct gift of British Rule, and has no basis in reality. In order that India moves forward and stakes a claim at its rightful place at the top of the world, we need to overcome these insecurities as a people, recognize the rhetoric for what it is, and move on in time-honoured Indian style and tradition. High time we started to apportion the blame to the place they actually belong : the brutal colonial rape, and recognize and accept that the only slavery we had was from 1757-1947, and that we never were slaves for 800 or 1000 years…




Monday, 6 July 2015

Being Indian 2 : The Line Of Citizenship



In the previous article, the theme was of inclusiveness and openness in the internal and external context, and how India has always been a land where everyone has found a home. In that article, I emphasized a differential approach, recommending a differentiation between us and the rest of the World; wherein I advocated being closed in the external cultural sphere, while being completely open in the internal cultural milieu.


I am saying be open; I am also saying be closed. One can be both at the same time. How do you define being open? Open to all - to what extent? There has to be a line. I draw that line - Black, Thick and Hard: The Line Of Citizenship. Externally, on politics and economics, I am defensive; true - but that is because the situation dictates defensiveness, - but more of that later in the series. Externally, on culture : I am completely open, and for the reasons listed out in at least 17 full articles, maybe several more. {http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/search?q=culture}


I state this because of our increasing penchant of idolizing and highlighting the achievements of Sanaatan Dharm followers the world over, as well as People Of Indian Origin; innumerable news articles and oodles of Media space and time is devoted to these aliens. For that is what these people are : Aliens. Had these people loved India, or looked upon India as a home, they would not have left permanently. The act of surrendering citizenship is indicative of their attitudes, their opinions and their priorities.


I don’t grudge them their choices; why should I? Just the same as they don’t have the right to intervene in my nation, or indeed my individual choices, I don’t have the right to intervene in what is essentially their individual choice. They may have been Indians at some point in time, now they aren’t – period. Now they are as alien to me as a Britisher, a Portuguese, A South African, or an Australian. The choice to cut the umbilical chord has created a divide that cannot be bridged…


Internally, I am stating complete openness, inclusiveness and confidence;. I am also emphasising unity, just the same as anyone else; I am only demarcating a line dictated by the world we live in. By drawing this line, I am clearly stating, that first we need to sort out our own problems before we set out to include the world... otherwise where is the difference between us and the West? They pontificate to everyone forgetting their own internal fissures. Remember the recent past in the USA?


By drawing this line, I am actually supporting universality and openness, since I am in effect saying that I can accept you as you are; we can live together. I will not dictate how to live to you; let us have a symbiotic relationship for mutual economic benefit given your past links to India. That, I think, exhudes confidence, practicality, and a rock-hard constitution. And an eminently workable, although exceptionally tough a path to walk. It also sets a red line : the relationship is mutual economic benefit – meaning you don’t have the right to intervene in our affairs- you are not repeat not an Indian Citizen anymore,


I find this amazing penchant of ours to highlight any headway in Sanaatani and NRI developments abroad to be both intrusive as well as strange; equally, this irritating penchant to not highlight achievements of Indians in India. Why should that be so? Why cant we highlight the achievements and success stories of the countless Indians who make it in India, who study and choose to stay in India? Why should I care if someone – even an NRI – achieves something abroad? The value that person is adding is to an alien society! Cant we think of Indian achievements – and there are hundred to go around?


It is this defensive behavior that manifests itself time and again : indicating that we have not gotten over our inferiority complexes regarding Western Culture, and its supposed superiority, which is a highly debatable and in some ways incorrect assumption, basis hard documented facts of the ugly side of their culture, just the same as every culture has bad points, including ours! Why should we, as a nation, care that some former Indian, who left India, made it big elsewhere? We should actually be devoting that time and space to Indians. If at all non-Indians, then focus on outsiders who came to India!


We have been here for 9000 years. We have seen the rise of empires; we have seen them fall and get razed to the dust. We have seen people lose their identities, their culture and get subsumed - of which there are even Modern Examples aplenty; we have seen cultures crumble; we have seen cultures and nations get destroyed by invaders -we have seen it all. And throughout this, we have remained unchanged.


We have seen the rise of might, and we have seen its crashing fall to the nadir of non-relevance. We have seen, felt and suffered the arrogance and the exuberance of might, and we are now seeing its whimper as it crumbles to dust, in the time-tested nature of this lovely existence. And through it all, we have been resolute, withstanding the strong gale-winds of forced change rip through our land and our people...


And yet, despite the force of the change, despite the insidious internal interactions wrecked upon our culture by the internal interaction with alien cultures, our culture has withstood it and stands tall and hard, as hard as it ever was. Indeed, instead of uprooting the old, what we are seeing is a repetition of the past, as this Holy Land choreographs its magic once again, assimilating the good from the other culture, eradicating the ills in the home culture, and further strengthening the bonds of the mother culture.


We have done it several times in the past; most recently in our interaction with the Arab World, where we assimilated the new culture effortlessly into our own until the sceptre of Western Interference tore apart the foundation of the adjustment before it could get cemented into stone. The manifest failure of Western Style Universalism and Culture to respect, accept, honour and integrate itself with Indian Culture is a clear failure of the Western Concepts, as on our side we have, yet again, managed to integrate the alien culture into our own culture. 


In doing so, churn has happened, tearing apart adjustments, understandings, bringing past deeds to the fore, destroying equilibrium, enhancing both perceived and real ills from a portion of the past and suppressing real ills of the immediate past, curdling perspective, and stoking sectarianism. Never has our culture faced such a brutal assault as it faced during 1757-1947, and yet it stood tall and resolute. As I observed in my previous articles, it drove a schism into our society and alienated a part of our heart from us.


And yet, despite the strongest and most vicious attack on our being, our soul and body, our Holy Land ensured that we withstood it. Sure, this has created several current and felt problems, but we are sorting them out in our own time-honoured traditions. Sure, it has created, or further enhanced, or exacerbate some social evils: but at the same time it has absorbed the good points from the attacking culture, effortlessly and seamlessly integrated them into our own cultural fabric for our own benefit.


Such is our Holy Land. And that is something special : very special indeed.

I would respectfully submit to all Indian readers here : please trust your mother a little bit more; as a people, she hasnt failed us yet. Maa to phir Maa hi reheti hai. Please have more pride and confidence in your Mom : and the blood that flows through our veins. {And if you do have the trust, forgive these words, please!}  Khoon Apnaa Rang Dikhaa Kar Rahegaa; Mehendi Toh Mehendi Hai Rang Laayegi! We have always been open, welcoming, non-judgemental, and progressive. A slide from that led to disaster, as history bears mute testimony. Let us not forget the lessons of history. But, at the same time, as I said, Khoon Apnaa Rang Dikhaa Kar Rahegaa; Mehendi Toh Mehendi Hai Rang Laayegi!


Let us look around and try and see myriad examples of positive impetus to Indian Values that can be seen everywhere we turn around and look; the rising small wave of a backlash is now evident in my reading, across the land in every aspect from tolerance to culture. In its worst form, it takes the shape of the extreme reactions like the furore over  of Valentine's Day. These reactions, though extreme, are completely in line with the expected reactions that are bound to happen as cultures collide. How anyone expects anything else is beyond me.



Rather than cry foul over these reactions, we should welcome them; they are a sign that all is not lost; they are a sign that the Indian is beginning to re-assert. The need of the hour is not condemnation of such reactionary forces- this will only feed the fire; the need of the hour is toning down their reactions, being mature, and working around them. This is the theme of the third article; our contemporary problems arising out of our past, and our current response

Friday, 3 July 2015

Being Indian - 1 : Cultural Invasion



One of the common themes in these times is the oft-heard erosion of values in India and the threat to our way of life; that Indian values are under threat… What does Being Indian mean, devoid of any religious connotations? In the following mini-series, I have tried to place what is essentially my opinion on Being Indian, and what are its ramifications… and present my views on Indian Culture’s well known inclusiveness – which is as per me the defining characteristic of being Indian -  as well as try and meet allegations of the spectre of cultural invasion, or the erosion of Indian Values


To me, Being Indian :
v Gives me an ability to think, read and write in 3 Languages with consummate ease and complete confidence...
v Gives me an edge as I can live my life in a truly free democracy, where the colour of skin doesnt matter, where my name doesnt matter
v Gives me an edge {form 1 above} because I can access the best of Western Literature as well as Eastern Literature, in addition to Indian Literature without having to go the additional mile to learn new languages or cultures
v Gives me an edge because I can communicate with someone in South Korea or Singapore or Philippines or Indonesia or USA or Germany or anywhere else; I can do business with them while not having to go the additional mile to learn a new language; at the same time, it allows me to stay very close and combined with my culture, as I converse in 3 languages with total ease
v Gives the confidence of the backing of an inclusive and open culture that has survived severe onslaughts, more than any other culture almost, and has not only flourished - but has taken the best from every culture to come into contact with it - the uniquely Indian power of assimilation
v Gives me an edge as I have to deal with stunning diversity on a daily basis - I interact daily with Muslims, Christians, Sanaatan Dharmis, SIkhs or North Indians, South Indians, East Indians, and so on including all types of skin colours; and it allows me to deal with them, befriend them and do business with them without any cultural connotations or limitations or biases...





Openness and Inclusiveness means that you are welcome to trade with India, tour India, have mutually - underline that - beneficial relations with India. That is it; dont interfere, and stay the hell out of our affairs. Intermix with us, associate with us, - but do not interfere. The fact of the matter is that the West does interfere and poke their unwanted nose everywhere; that is where we Indians draw the line.


One can be open and inclusive while simultaneously drawing the line; it is eminently feasible to do so. Openness and Inclusiveness are typically internal terms, internal realities referring to the internal cultural reaction and their socio-political effects; external interactions are governed by a different set of factors, which do not include openness and inclusiveness in the cultural context.

In the external context, being open and inclusive means not having territorial designs, not being judgemental of other cultural or having a supermacist self-image, being accepting of other realities and cultural contexts {as different from political realities and context}, accepting those differences and working around those differences without offending the other party / culture, and without being judgemental , holier-than-thou and moralistic.


Morals, while absolute, have widely divergent yardstick and norms in other cultures; ditto social norms. We cannot and should not dictate our cultural view to other cultures - it is their culture, their problems are theirs to solve, not ours. We have no conceptualisation of their internal realities and factors, and our opinion or interference is thus not required.


We can easily see that externally we have been very careful, as a nation, to be non-judgemental and inclusive, accepting of other nations and cultures. Unlike The Great West, we dont chastise USA on their racism problems, or dictate to other cultures {as a small example}. We dont bring out insulting reports on internal factors of other nations - unlike the holier-than-thou USA which does it all the time, as an example. We are very internally focused as a nation and as a people, with the only exception being our penchant for following Sanaatan Dharm and its followers everywhere. But point to be noted : even there, we have never intervened or interfered to the best of my knowledge; which is more than can be said of the developed world, with its myriad cultural and political means of subvention as well as intervention


That is why we cannot drop our guard : their problems are theirs only so far as they dont impact us or our nation's internal security paradigms. You may have business relations in India, you may have business contacts, you may have the same roots & origins – like PIOs, or the same religion; you may be our security or strategic partner and/or well-wisher - that does not give you the right to pontificate. We can manage our own problems; we don’t pontificate to you; and the least we expect is that you reciprocate…


That is truly walking the talk; that is truly inclusive and mature…


I live my way, you live yours. I accept your way - and the least I expect is that you accept my path. If you dont, then there is going to be a clash. Openness and Inclusiveness between cultures works only when both are the same; when only one is Open and Inclusive, you cannot have Openness and Inclusiveness without clashes, which is what we see in the international context as cultures collide. And when the collision is in both the cultural as well as the political sphere, problems get intertwined and exacerbated.

Politically, one can easily see a myriad attempts at interference : crass and in-your-face - like building up Pakistan; Trade and Economic Issues - Solar Power, AMS, Climate Change, Tech Transfer, UNO; Myriad targeted reports on various internal issues, and so on and so forth. These are real problems, and cannot be wished away. Neither can the reality of the connected world : I refer you to the seminal book by Dr Raghuram Rajan {http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/04/book-review-fault-lines-by-raghuram-g.html} , as well as the book by Michael W Hudson {http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2012/05/book-review-monster.html} ; the impact of the globally connected economy on unrelated markets is now a fundamental truth and cannot be wished away.



Culturally too, one can easily spot a variety of attempts at intervention through various quasi-cultural methods, as well as outright political methods; but these pale into insignificance in the light of the other challenge to the culture,  it is also true that it is culture that is at the foreground in the connected world with its exposure to other cultural ideas, mores, norms, modes, practices and realities through the increasingly aggressive media and its exposure to people



In such an atmosphere, while it is absolutely vital that a defensive mechanism be in place in every way in the political sphere, I am not too concerned about the impact on culture; which is why I am not at all defensive on both the overt cultural aspects like Movies and Music, as well as the less apparent cultural aspects like tolerance, respect of elders, open world view, inclusiveness, When it comes to realpolitic, it is important that we build strong defenses; that is where the focus needs to be – not on building defences and angry reactions to an imagined cultural invasion which may not be as serious as we think it to be!


Nothing stated above means we forget the past; which is the single biggest reason for some people to mount a defend Indian Culture action sequence. These reactions we shall look at later; As regards bitterness and history, when a people have bled as much as we have, it will take a long time, a very, very long time to forget. But what past to remember – only a partial recollection, or the full story? Why not remember the full story, especially since the developed world is developed only on the stolen wealth from the colonies? Why only a partial recollection of history? Further, contemporary history has proven that it would be naive to forget the relevant past, which we do tend to ignore : witness the US-Pakistan duo, and how it is consistently supporting Pakistan to our detriment. Witness the Economic and Trade negotiations in everything from Agriculture to Climate, and witness the western onesided selfishness.


Let us look at what happened in 1947, which was enough to tear apart the core, the base, the bedrock and the entire edifice of Aryavarta, the Golden Land {of which India is a larger version, having expanded in some regions, while contracting elsewhere}; it was enough to rip out its entails. It was a brutal jolt, a shock to the core of our being, our raison-de-etre. A land where everyone was at home was no longer home to some people... and yet…


In the midst of this disaster, from the ashes of ruin, rose Modern India - the living image of Ancient Aryavarta, a land where everyone is welcome regardless of anything, so long as you are an Indian Citizen. Yet again, all religions, colours and cultural realities found a means of peaceful co-existence. Sure, problems remain - but how many of those problems are due to the colonial experience? Have we had enough time to eradicate that memory and that damage?


This is a theme we will examine in later articles, for now, the learning from the above example for us is that if such  a brutal jolt could not destroy the core of our ethos as a civilization, it is being pessimistic in the extreme to believe minor cultural factors will succeed in overcoming us; this is a time for us Indians to look at the entire past, and draw confidence from it; and look at our contemporary approach  and culture, and draw pride for it – not defensiveness.