4000 Years – Hittites & Gandhiji
Separated by 4000 years, what could possibly be common between Gandhiji (2000 years after Christ) and Hittites (2000 years before Christ) – the pre-Greek Indians in the Middle East? Both, the Hittites and Gandhiji, rejected Hammurabi’s “eye-for-an-eye” legal thinking and system – 4000 years apart.
Who Was Hammurabi
Western historians glorified Hammurabi as the world’s first law giver – and Occidental-Levantine (including the Shariat) laws are based on Hammurabi’s legal code of “an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth”. Hammurabi’s laws and edicts were retributive, vengeful and punishment oriented. The focus of Hammurabi’s legal system is to give a ‘fitting’ counter punishment for a defined offense. Roman law calls this lex talionis and the Old Testament advocates an eye for an eye“, (Hebrew: עין תחת עין) is a quotation from Exodus 21:23–27.
Results & Consequences
The largest prison population in the world is USA, currently at 2 million. The US has more people in prison than the totalitarian regimes of Russia or China. It also has one of the highest crime rates in the world is also USA. Is there a causal link between the Hammurabic legal systems and the crime it seems to engender.
Massacre & Slavery
This is also the same system that has created, supported, protected the premier slave systems of the world. It is also the same system with a singular record for blood baths and massacres in the history of mankind. This is region and system that gave rise to the three slave religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The three ‘desert religions’, gained their first converts from slaves, but continued with slavery till the 20th century. The 3 ‘desert religions’ instead of reforming slave societies, just enabled the transfer of slave titles. Freedom meant old slaves became the new slave masters.
The Hittite Legal System
The alternate system in that era, 4000 years ago, was the Hittite legal system. We get an insight into the Hittite legal system from (more than) 10,000 clay seals and tablets at Boghaz-koi, unearthed in 1907-08 by Makridi Bey and Hugo Winckler and deciphered by Bedrich Hrozny during 1910-1921. These tablets and seals reveal the legal minds of the Hittites. Hittite law, different from Hammurabi laws, was based on amelioration of the effect of crime and driven less by fear of death and punishment.
The Hittites, Mittanis and Elamites (using Indo-Dravidian languages) were Indo Aryans that dominated Asia from Indian borders to European borders till 500 BC. Kassite, the other major ruling clan in Levant’s geography (apart from the Egyptians) heavily adopted Indo Aryan cultural motifs.
Hammurabi’s main rival in the Middle East arena was Rama-Sin of Larsa (ruler of Larsa) who ruled for 60 years. Raim Sin (1753?-1693? BC) of Larsa, in Sumer (modern Iraq), ruled over Sumer, Elam – present-day Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Sin is the Assyrian moon goddess (in modern Indian languages, Ram-Sin will be translated to Ramachandra). Ram-Sin assumed the title of ‘king of all lands’, blessed by Goddess ‘Nin Makh’ at ‘Opis’, his second capital in Babylonia. Ram-Sin fought for a long time an inconclusive war with Hammurabi (speculatively identified as ‘Ravana’ of the Indus seals). Ram-Sin, king of Babylonia possibly, was finally able to defeat Hammurabi in the joint action with the chief of Subartu, Hurrian and Mitanni kings. Hammurabi was killed in the fight, speculatively suggested by one of the Indus seals.
Gandhiji – And Hittites?
4000 years later, Gandhiji, described the western civilisation as a “good idea“. Gandhiji’s knowledge of Hittite legal thought would have been (probably close to) zero as the decipherment of Boghazkoi and other Hittite texts was ongoing and incomplete. Elaborate analysis and the commentary on Hittites and Boghazkoi came after Gandhiji’s death.
The Hittite legal revolution 4000 years ago plays out even today.
Go West, young man?
But, modern Indian law makers and jurists look to the West for getting legal ideas. Under the garb of modernisation, Indian law is becoming negative. Apart from not taking up the challenge of repealing colonial laws, the Indian Government has accepted the colonial legal system (nearly) in toto.
The Odious Section 498
Possibly the best example of post-colonial, western-patterned law is the Section 498. A retributive, revengeful law (patterned on western legal models) is now undermining the very structure of Indian society – marriage. Section 498 has has taken away marriages from the social domain into the legal sphere. From being contributory, accommodative, religious and life long, Indian marriage system is becoming extractive, adversarial, contractual, legal and short term. Some in the West do see the value in the Indian system – but India seems to think that West is a way out!
On September 5th, 2008, eight months after this post, the Times Of India reported that the Indian Government may review the section 498 law. The report talked about how
“For long, voices raised against the anti-dowry act were dismissed as those belonging to men desperately trying to retain their dominance over women. But now, an increasing number of women complaining against misuse of the act has forced the women and child development (WCD) ministry to initiate a review of the controversial legislation.
The government’s turnaround comes after an increasing number of complaints came from women themselves — mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law who ironically have fallen victim to the misuse of the two laws.
The statistics are telling. Raksha, an NGO working on marital harmony and child welfare, has analysed figures by the National Crime Records Bureau to deduce that 1.2 lakh women have been falsely implicated under 498A.
‘‘Every 21 minutes, an innocent woman is being arrested. While the number of arrests under 498A are increasing every year, what is not being considered is that the conviction rate in these cases is barely 2%,’’ Anupama Singh, Raksha spokesperson said.
The Indian Legal Alternative
Indian law can take inspiration from the Hittites of 4000 years and offer an alternate model to the world. A Gandhian model. The rejection of Hammurabi’s legal system by the Hittites and Gandhiji, separated by 4000 years, is not a co-incidence. Gandhiji’s response, separated by 4000 years from the Hittites, demonstrate the Indian continuity in thought and action.
The Khilafat Movement
Interestingly, also 4000 years later, when rulers of (the modern day Hittite kingdom in) Turkey, the Ottoman Turks, were being unseated from their thrones, by the British after WW1, it was Gandhiji who objected to the end of the Caliphate- and started the Khilafat Movement. India, itself a colony, took lead on an international issue and made its presence felt.
This break up of the Ottoman rule after WW1, and the installation of puppet regimes, regressed Islamic societies by centuries – at a great cost of millions of lives.
PS – If all else fails, there is the path of political assassination. A few days ago, from Washington, USA, someone Googled to ask “why britishers didn’t kill gandhi“. Perhaps, that was one moment in history, when the political leaders of the Anglo Saxon Bloc were momentarily humanised.
© with respective copyright holders. Copyright details embedded in the links.