Indian government and media has long promoted the image of an aggressive, expansionist China – which is strictly not based on facts. Piecing together the Chinese jigsaw becomes a time-consuming and intricate exercise in history and politics.
While global media was busy with the Euro-currency crisis, some interesting data from China government has received little attention.
Especially, in India – China biggest and near neighbour.
Velvet fist inside an iron glove
Belief that the Chinese Communist Party has an iron grip over China, ruling over a cowering populace is misplaced. China’s occupation of Tibet keeps Tibetans on the boil. Xinjiang erupts periodically. Capital Beijing went through a Tiananmen bloodletting a little over two decades ago in 1989.
This year, the (Chinese) government plans to spend 624.4 billion yuan on public security, a 13.8 percent increase from 2010, and 601.2 billion yuan on defense, a 12.7 percent increase, according to the Finance Ministry. The announcement comes days after hundreds of police deployed in cities across the country following an online call for rallies inspired by uprisings in the Middle East.
Like national defense, China spends less on its police than the U.S. Federal, state and local governments spent a combined $213.7 billion on police, prisons and the judicial system in 2005, the last year figures are available, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the Department of Justice.
U.S. spending on the justice system in 2005 was 1.7 percent of that year’s gross domestic product. China’s announced 2010 spending on public safety was 1.4 percent of 2010 GDP. (via China’s Spending on Internal Policing Outstrips Defense Budget – Businessweek).
Reuters confirms these figures and the source.
* To spend $95 bln on public security, $92 bln on military
* Security spend includes police, jails, state security
China’s spending on police and domestic surveillance will hit new heights this year, with “public security” outlays unveiled on Saturday outstripping the defence budget for the first time as Beijing cracks down on protest calls.
The 13.8 percent jump in China’s planned budget for police, state security, armed civil militia, courts and jails was unveiled at the start of the annual parliamentary session, and brought planned spending on law and order items to 624.4 billion yuan ($95.0 billion).
By contrast, China’s People’s Liberation Army budget is set to rise 12.7 percent to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.5 billion).
“This would be the first time that the openly announced domestic security budget has surpassed military spending”, said Xie Yue, a political scientist at Tongji University in Shanghai.
He called the figure a gauge of China’s spending on what officials call “stability protection.”
“This shows the rising costs of maintaining internal control,” said Xie, who studies China’s domestic security policies and spending. “This system is very sensitive to any instability or contention.” Many foreign experts believe China’s real military budget is much bigger. Xie, the Shanghai professor, said spending on “stability maintenance” was also far higher than official data. (via UPDATE 2-China internal security spending jumps past army budget | Reuters).
If China was indeed so much in command over its provinces, why do they have such a large ‘internal security’ budget.
The expenditure on policing and imprisonment is in itself proof of a disturbed populace.
Chinese population is not a cowering lot – and Chinese reports suggest that, indeed there is a significant protests volume.
The surge in public security spending comes as so-called mass incidents, everything from strikes to riots and demonstrations, are on the rise. There were at least 180,000 such incidents in 2010, twice as many as in 2006, Sun Liping, a professor of sociology at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said in a Feb. 25 article in the Economic Observer. (via China’s Spending on Internal Policing Outstrips Defense Budget – Businessweek).
Widely cited, sometimes quoted wrongly (probably based on a typo), this figure gives a window into Chinese administration and its acceptance. However, this figure of 180,000 mass incidents while a Chinese figure, may not give the complete picture.
Readers of the international press could be forgiven for thinking that China is a cauldron of social unrest on the brink of boiling over. Reports of riots or protests invariably cite the growing number of official “mass incidents” to emphasise the point.
But the accuracy of these numbers – which refer to anything from small, peaceful protests to the murderous ethnic riots that engulfed Xinjiang in 2009 – is questionable at best. Moreover, there is no evidence that social unrest poses an imminent threat to the Communist party’s grip on power.
Foreign reports typically cite a figure of 80,000-100,000 “mass incidents” in China per year. Yet the definition of a mass incident is so broad and the official reporting so inconsistent that these numbers have little clear meaning.
In practice, there is no agreement on the definition of a “mass incident”. Police generally use a wider definition which enables them to document how effective their enforcement is; government officials tend to use a narrower definition to minimise the apparent scale of the problem.
National statistics published by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) show slow growth in mass incidents from 1993 to 1997 followed by a period of much faster growth through 2004. MPS only considered these data points “estimates” – numbers were rounded to the nearest hundred or thousand – and stopped publishing the data in 2005.
Journalists often cite a figure of 87,000 for 2005, which was published on the MPS website in early 2006. But this number refers to an even broader category of “public order disturbances”, that cover anything from riots and protests to participation in cults or organised crime, hacking, orgies, gambling, even insulting the national flag.
In early 2007, Liu Jingguo, the vice-minister of public security, told a press conference that mass incidents fell 16.5 per cent year on year in 2006. But there were no further statements on mass incident numbers until after the Olympics in August 2008.
After the Olympics passed and the media spotlight dimmed, the number of mass incidents mysteriously rose once again. Estimates by the China Academy of Social Sciences give a figure of “over 90,000” mass incidents in 2006 and further unspecified increases in 2007 and 2008.
Most analysts agree that anecdotal evidence, such as a steady rise in the number of petitions submitted to the central government protesting about local government misbehaviour, supports this trend.
The central government is adapting to the challenge, to some extent. Since most complaints are against local officials or businesses, the central government argues that the chief problem is petty corruption stemming from bad eggs at the local level rather than systemic flaws that would undermine the legitimacy of the regime.
Indeed, the sharp rise in petitions to Beijing about local abuses testifies to a widespread belief that the central government is more a potential solution to the problem, not its ultimate source.
But this belief may be changing. Anecdotal evidence over the last five years suggests a rise in “anger-venting” mass incidents – large scale, often violent, riots that erupt from seemingly minor incidents and reflect general discontent rather than specific rights violations. (via The accuracy of China’s ‘mass incidents’ – FT.com).
So, what makes the Chinese see red?
Land grab by the State
A big reason for these protests – land grabbing by the State.
Most recently, was a ‘mass-incident’ at Wukan, Guangdong, that started after the death of a protestor and the arrest of three in September.
Land grabs and local corruption are serious challenges for China’s leaders, but Wukan demonstrates well why they are unlikely to prompt a revolution: the government is often ready to give protesters what they want. The villains in such stories are almost always local officials – low-level functionaries who have long since been passed over promotion and learned to spend their time selling favors to provide for their retirements. (via What Wukan Really Meant | The Diplomat).
Is Wukan an aberration, or a feature of Chinese administration?
a common scourge plaguing Chinese farmers: the theft of their land by local officials. Although farmers in China have, nominally at least, 30-year leases on their state-owned land, local officials often sell leases, for a huge profit, to commercial developers without bothering to consult the affected farmers. The lion’s share of proceeds from such illegal transactions go into the coffers of local governments and the pockets of corrupt officials, with the farmers, now landless and without income, receiving a pittance.
Estimates by Chinese scholars suggest they account for roughly 60 percent of the so-called “mass incidents” recorded by Chinese authorities. Majority of farmers whose land was stolen have received little help from the government.
In the short term, China is most likely entering another period of high social unrest. Indeed, the most senior party leader in charge of domestic security recently sounded a dark warning about rising social instability. The specific cause he cited was the expected economic slowdown in China, which faces falling export demands, a deteriorating real estate market, and mounting bad loans in the financial system. While it’s true that poor economic performance will dent the legitimacy of the party and rising unemployment will swell the ranks of the disaffected, the causes of social protest in China aren’t cyclical, but structural. In other words, ordinary Chinese citizens revolt against local authorities not because of temporary economic hardships, but because of systemic and pervasive abuse of power and petty despotism perpetrated by the agents of the one-party state.
To see why this is the case, one simply needs to plot the growth of the Chinese economy alongside the increase of reported mass protest incidents. The number of mass protest rises irrespective of China’s growth performance. In fact, the rate of growth in mass protest exceeds the rate of China’s GDP growth. What’s notable about this set of numbers is that, if anything, economic growth fuels social discontent in China. The size of the Chinese economy has more than doubled in the last decade. The number of mass incidents rose roughly four times in the same period.
This observation brings us to another question: why is economic growth making an increasing number of ordinary Chinese people upset? Three answers come to mind.
First, the benefits of economic growth in China aren’t being equitably shared, with the economic and political elites gaining the most. As in the West, inequality in China has risen dramatically in the last twenty years. Today, income disparity in China is approaching Latin American levels. More important, because political connections and corruption are critical to economic success in China’s crony-capitalist autocracy, most ordinary people view wealth amassed by the elites as illegitimate. This creates a social environment in which resentment against the rich and the powerful can readily find expression in protests and riots.
Second, China’s economic growth, impressive in number, is actually low in quality. Expansion of the economy is achieved by undercutting social services (such as healthcare, poverty reduction, and education) and neglecting the environment. Deteriorating social services can stoke discontent among ordinary people, who rely on them much more than the elites. Worse still, environmental degradation, a direct result of Beijing’s blind focus on GDP growth, has now become a major cause of social protest. The Ministry of Environmental Protection admits publicly that mass incidents triggered by environmental pollution have been growing at double-digit each year (although it has withheld the actual numbers).
Third, social protest is an inevitable response by ordinary people to systemic corruption, repression and petty despotism that defines a one-party regime. In such a system, the agents of the regime wield enormous power but are subject to little accountability. Their use of coercion and violence against defenseless citizens is routine and habitual. In the case of the Wukan protest, the spark that ignited the mass incident was the death of a representative sent by the villagers to negotiate with local authorities. He was believed to have been tortured by the police. Because this system produces innocent victims daily, it should at least expect its victims to rise up in self-defense.
It’s therefore clear that mass social protest has become a permanent feature of the Chinese political system. Although such protest, by itself, won’t dethrone the Communist Party, it does weaken the party’s rule in subtle ways. Trying to maintain control over a restive population is forcing the party to expend ever-more resources on domestic security. Letting such routine protest – amplified by the Internet and microblogs – occur makes the party look weak and incompetent. Having tens of millions of disgruntled citizens also means that potential opposition movement can find political allies among China’s down-trodden masses. Worst of all, in a political crisis, these enemies of the regime could all rise in revolt spontaneously.
Perhaps Chinese domestic security officials should be even more worried. Today it’s Wukan. Could Beijing be next? (via Occupy Beijing? | The Diplomat).
Interestingly, the ‘free’ West does not have the kind of data and statistics that the Chinese are releasing about China.
Story so far
There are many other elements to the Chinese puzzle.
Earlier posts examined the Chinese economy without the support of a cheap yuan that boosted exports for the last nearly twenty years. Will China go the Japan way? The mysterious manner in which the Buddhist monk has disappeared from Chinese movies is an ominous feature. Especially when the Buddhist monk has been replaced by gangsters.
Tibetan protests in the form of self-immolation by priests and nuns have unnerved the Chinese administration. Even in the past, in the 1965 and the 1971 India Pakistan Wars, China had maintained a distant attitude towards Pakistan. Indian Navy in the South China Sea, in alliance with Vietnam, is a significant counter-measure to posturing in the Indian North East by China.
Catching on and catching up on the emerging China picture.
- Are China and U.S. to be enemies? (cnn.com)
- Indian traders released after days of detention in Yiwu (thehindu.com)
- China Tells Police to Better Address Citizens’ Complaints (businessweek.com)
- “Rationally handling group incidents” in China (blogs.mcclatchydc.com)
- China Seeks to Boost Consumption Amid Global Slowdown, Chen Says (businessweek.com)
- Chinese News Agency Warns Against US Moves – New York Times (nytimes.com)
- ANALYSIS | Will America take the knife to military spending? (cbc.ca)
- Chinese Currency Reaches All-Time High (huffingtonpost.com)
- China prepares for huge Christmas spending spree (telegraph.co.uk)
Funding India NGOs
Something very strange is happening. There are some 33 lakh (3.3 million) NGOs, operating in India – for the 20 crore (200 million) odd families in India. That would be one NGO for every 70 families.
These mushrooming NGOs are getting billions of US$ in funding. Recently,
Statistics released by the home ministry regarding ‘foreign funds to NGOs’ show that India, which has a total of 33,937 registered associations, received Rs 12,289.63 crore in foreign contributions during 2006-07 as against Rs 7,877.57 crore in 2005-06, a substantial increase of nearly Rs 4,400 crore (56%) in just one year.
The US, Germany, the UK, Switzerland and Italy were the top five foreign contributors during 2006-07. These five countries have consistently been the big donors since 2004-05. Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and France are the other countries which figure prominently in the list of foreign donors. (read more via Foreign funds to Indian NGOs soar, Pak among donors-India-The Times of India).
What does this mean …
Rs 12,289.63 crore is roughly US$3 billion – based on average dollar value for 2008.
And that, is a lot of money.
That is more money than what the US Govt. gave as aid to more than the 100 poorest countries. Till a few years ago, India annual FDI was US$ 4 billion. Just a little more than the US$3 billion that India received as charity through various NGOs in 2008.
The total US Official Development Assistance to the whole of sub-Saharan Africa (more than 40 countries), in 2007, was “US$4.5 billion contributed bilaterally and an estimated $1.2 billion was contributed through multilateral organizations”.
What is the source of these funds …
The rich, the poor and the middle class in these ‘charitable countries’ are themselves deep in debt. Where are they getting the money from? Why are they being so liberal towards India? What is the source of these funds?
Where this money going …
Is it going as thinly disguised aid to Naxal affected areas – where some ‘Christian’ missionaries are working to‘save’ the tribals? Is it going towards publicity for causes which are thinly disguised trade issues. For instance, child labour – which is, in many cases, a system of apprenticeship for traditional skills.
Or are these NGOs promoting policy frameworks which are distorting India’s social systems? The Population Myth /Problem /Explosion for instance was promoted for the first decade by Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation and USAID. Are they behind the NGOs which are promoting Section 498 laws as a legal solution – a solution that ‘benefits’ about 5000 women and creates about 150,000 women as victims.
These are laws and policies which are undermining the Indian family system. Which country in the world has a stable family structure with such low divorce rates as India?
The Clintons, The Gates, The Turners, et al
The ‘progressive-liberal’ establishment of the West is viewed rather benignly in India – and seen as ‘well-wishers’ of India. Many such ideas are welcomed in India without analysis. These ideas are viewed positively, as the source of such initiatives is seen as well-intentioned. These rich money-bags in cahoots with the State’s propaganda machinery, the media and academia are creating false messiahs, hollow idols and instant saints.
The beatification of Saint Judt
The last 90 days saw a surge on obits, reviews and tributes to Tony Judt.
Tony who? Exactly.
An unknown writer till a few months ago, has suddenly become famous in his death. Media (at least in India) has gone overboard. But when Marathi media started on Tony Judt, it was high noon. The straw on the camel’s back.
OK, guilty of misrepresentation. Not the camel’ back! It was my back.
There seems an effort at beatification of Tony Judt. In the modern era, temporal authorities, award a quick Nobel Prize, pin a Congressional Medal of Honor – and the process of ‘secular’ sainthood is completed. Media aids by marching to the drumbeat of the State. These ‘secular’ sainthoods by the ‘modern-secular-liberal-progressive-democratic’ establishment are not meant to be enduring or important. They , the latter-day, disposable, ‘secular’ saints, serve a utilitarian purpose to their masters – the State.
Tony Judt is no exception.
From the safety of a university cloister
By being overtly anti-Israel, Tony Judt, gets an inside track into the Islāmic mind – to start his ideas of ‘identity’.
A self-confessed, Social Democrat (but that is not ‘identity’) Tony Judt is the type who speaks from the comfort of a winning side.
We know enough of ideological and political movements to be wary of exclusive solidarity in all its forms. One should keep one’s distance not only from the obviously unappealing “-isms”—fascism, jingoism, chauvinism—but also from the more seductive variety: communism, to be sure, but nationalism and Zionism too. And then there is national pride: more than two centuries after Samuel Johnson first made the point, patriotism—as anyone who passed the last decade in America can testify—is still the last refuge of the scoundrel. (read more via Edge People | The New York Review of Books).
As fortunes shifted and wavered, Tony Judt’s recounts how his family moved from one declining economy to another growing economy. From Eastern Europe, vaguely in a region near Russia, to Antwerp in Belgium, thereon to Britain, and finally to the USA. He finds
over the years these fierce unconditional loyalties—to a country, a God, an idea, or a man—have come to terrify me. The thin veneer of civilization rests upon what may well be an illusory faith in our common humanity.
To people like Tony Judt, identity is a matter of convenience. And they rightly, recommend that people must have no identity – and by extension, no loyalty. Fly flags of convenience. May the highest bidder win.
I wonder where Judt’s family was, when the Belgians were flogging the Congolese.
Sainthood by the Vatican
The ‘modern’ State and the media of the Free World have it easy when it comes to cannonising people like Tony Judt!
The Catholic Church has a rather exacting process, stretching over a few years, at the very least. The Catholic Church even appoints a Devil’s Advocate – someone who tries to find reasons why the candidate should NOT be declared a saint.
This process has sometimes taken decades too. After multiple processes and steps, a committee. the Congregation for the Causes of Saints decides on these issues. With the kind of rigour that the Vatican process follows, Saints have ‘public memory’ life span extending to centuries.
Coming to Saint Judt
Today when the West is paying the price for creating a misshapen Islāmic identity, people like Judt thinly speak out against identity – an Islāmic identity. Or when the West faces a challenge from Asia, China and India, it pays to talk of less identity.
This idea of less identity would not be such a bad idea – if you have so little of identity, to start with!
Remember trojan horses
A ‘tolerant’ and ‘open’ society like India can be a complacent victim to trojan horses – and ‘secular’ saints like Tony Judt. Another article a few weeks ago gave an overview of the NGO ‘economy’.
In many ways, (the) metamorphosis from a modest, village-level, kurta-pyjama clad activist into a well-heeled, suited-booted, city slicker whose voice is heard in high places, mirrors the changing face of India’s burgeoning voluntary sector. Once the preserve of the humble jholawallah, the ‘third sector’ of the Indian economy is now teeming with smart men and women, armed with management degrees, laptops and huge funds generated by a liberalised and booming economy. As the state retreats in an era of privatisation, new-generation NGOs have moved in to fill the vacuum, often doing what the government used to do in rural areas and urban slums or conducting advocacy programmes for policy interventions, even holding skill-building workshops to update small voluntary groups. Their activities are vast and varied and bear little resemblance to the sweetly charitable work of the silent, selfless grassroots workers of the ’70s and the ’80s.
The growth of the sector has been explosive in the past two decades, both in numbers and financial resources. First, the numbers. If the findings of a survey conducted by the Central Statistical Organisation of the ministry of statistics in 2008 are to be believed, there are as many as 3. 3 million NGOs registered in India. In other words, there is one NGO for every 400 Indians. No other country in the world boasts of such huge numbers in the third sector. However, this mind-boggling figure should be taken with a pinch of salt, as even the CSO report has acknowledged that many are probably defunct. But, as Sanjay Agarwal, a chartered accountant who works with several NGOs, said, “At least the CSO has tried to shine a light where there was darkness all these years. No one has ever tried to collate any kind of data on the voluntary sector. “
The CSO report then is a starting point and its data is revealing. It found that the big growth spurt has happened since 1991. As many as 30 per cent of the 3. 3 million NGOs were registered in the decade of the ’90s and 45 per cent more came up after the year 2000. While religious organisations and charities were the most commonly registered societies in the period before 1970, there was a phenomenal expansion in social service organisations after 1991 – as much as a 40 per cent increase, according to the CSO report.
It is significant that the phenomenal expansion of the voluntary sector coincides with the opening up of the economy and its rapid growth. India was changing as it privatised and globalised, and the changes saw NGOs blooming in thousands as civil society matured and began asserting itself. Nothing underscores their growing influence more than enforcement of the Right to Information Act and the National Rural Employment Generation Act, both of which were products of pressure from civil society organisations.
Yet, despite such unprecedented growth, there has been little or no effort to map the voluntary sector or streamline it for transparency. It remains opaque, with questionable accountability levels, leaving it vulnerable to scams and scandals and the inevitable public suspicion about sources and utilisation of funds. Because of the lack of comprehensive data, even estimates about the financial size of the sector vary. One figure is as high as Rs 75, 000 crore annually, but Rajesh Tandon, president of PRIA (Society for Participatory Research in Asia), a leading mega NGO that works with a host of smaller ones, puts the amount of money available to this sector at around Rs 40, 000 crore per year.
Most of the funding comes from domestic sources, of which the government is the largest donor. However, foreign donations make up a significant portion of the financial resources available to NGOs. Unfortunately, here too, despite a Foreign Contributions Regulation Act, no authentic figures are available, underlining the laxity that prevails in this sector. Home minister P Chidambaram told Parliament recently that the government recorded a figure of around Rs 10, 000 crore from foreign donations last year. He went on to add that this figure was grossly undervalued because nearly half the NGOs registered to receive foreign aid had not reported contributions they have received over the years. In other words, he said, foreign funding of the NGO sector could be as high as Rs 20, 000 crores.
The prevailing confusion and the lack of systems to track movement of funds have only served to tarnish the image of the voluntary sector, despite the good work that many of them do. As with every sector, there are good NGOs and bad NGOs. Unfortunately, the latter hog the headlines. Scams are aplenty, particularly when it comes to the disbursement of government money. The rural development ministry’s main funding agency, which also happens to be the biggest government donor, CAPART (Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology ), fell into disrepute because of the high level of corruption in the department. (read more via People for Profit | Cover Story | Times Crest).
The hoax of this century
2ndlook tracked and collated the entire Climate change campaign, where
- Multiple PR agencies, NGOs were used and funded by the British, Norwegian and Australian Governments
- To mount a global campaign of ‘epic’ proportions
- To stampede the world into a regime of faceless and unaccountable bureaucrats –
- That would monitor nations, industry and economies of the world.
The campaign possibly even subverted the Maldives election campaign to propel a Trojan horse into the developing world camp. Nobel prizes were dangled in front of the Trinidad’s PM. A group of ‘Vulnerable 14′ was promoted to make proxy noises on behalf of the organizers of his climate change hoax.
The do-gooder industry
These NGOs under the garb of being do-gooders, soon end up showing their true colours. Whether its was the Climate change campaign, or the social-service sector, the do-gooder industry is dangerous idea.
A 62-year-old British national, who was arrested by the UK police on charges of sexually abusing several boys of a boarding school in Chennai over three years from September 2003, is likely to walk free in a fortnight because of a year-long delay on the part of Indian authorities in assisting the probe. (read more via UK paedophile may walk free-Chennai-Cities-The Times of India).
The do-good industry
An Australian do-gooder was arrested for sexually assaulting children of an orphanage in Puri. Powel Allen, an eye surgeon employed with the orphanage for the past four years, was arrested in Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh). Sometime back, two other orphanage administrators, and alleged pedophiles, Duncan Grant and Allan John Waters were convicted (their conviction is now under appeal-review).
Further back, Wilhelm and Lile Marti, a Swiss couple, again in the do-good industry, were granted bail in a pedophilia case. After bail, they promptly fled India.
Do we really need these do-gooders?
Mother Teresa, another do-gooder raised hundreds of crores in the name of Kolkatta’s poor, A few hundreds of the Kolkatta’s poor benefited from that money. But many missionaries rode on the backs of these poor Kolkattans, raising even more money. The PR machine of the Vatican has done a great job on this scam.
Even if India can’t take care of its poor, we don’t need these do-gooders!
Should we say, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan!!’
They have problems at home
Spain has 400,000 prostitutes (for a population of 40 million) who ‘attract’ 15,00,000 clients every day. Some state the Spanish social system is in! Britain has 10,000 Muslim prisoners out 16,00,000 British Muslims . Quite a number of prisoners to have!
And these very countries had the temerity to ‘donate’ Indian NGOs a humungous US$3 billion (nearly) last year. May I suggest? Keep your money and keep your do-gooders at home.
Your need is greater than ours.
- NGOs across the country awarded (topinews.com)
- Donations to Missionaries in India. (ramanan50.wordpress.com)
- NGOs, CSOs task FG on criminalising torture (vanguardngr.com)
- Save Haiti from aid tourists | Rory Carroll (guardian.co.uk)
- Funding secured to support work of environmental NGOs in Haiti (greenantilles.com)
- David Cameron – you’re undoing the ‘big society’ we were making | Ally Fogg (guardian.co.uk)
- The Perils of Digital Diplomacy (fastcompany.com)
- NGOs welcome aid review (news.theage.com.au)
- Aid Effort Spawns a Backlash in Haiti (online.wsj.com)
- Afghanistan shuts down 150 Afghan, foreign aid groups (reuters.com)
The curse of Akkad
As the various cities of the Saraswati-Indus Basin declined, some two thousand kilometers away, the Akkadian Empire also vanished. Was that a co-incidence?
A curious 4000-year old story, The Curse of Agade (also spelt as Akkad /Akkade), a favorite with Babylonian scribes, has been of much interest to modern scholars and researchers. For more than 75 years now, these texts have been analysed and examined. Many versions of this lament were recovered from Sumerian sites (like Nippur). This ‘lament’ was long thought to be a mythical-literary text – with little historical value. Wrongly thought! This poem described how,
The large fields produced no grain
The flooded fields produced no fish
The watered garden produced no honey and wine …
He who slept in the house, had no burial
People were flailing at themselves from hunger
This extract above, from clay tablet, known as the Curse of Akkad, dated 2200 BC, gained documentary credibility after some recent research. This study showed that it was not Gutians who destroyed Akkad, but it was the multi-century drought.
This study, indicated a prolonged drought in the Akkadian region. To confirm Akkad’s drought, soil samples were analysed. This study confirmed (Weiss 1993) that a prolonged drought significantly, affected the Akkadian empire.
Pretty much like what the Indian pollen deposits research did, (Gurdip Singh – 1967-71), in the lakes of Rajasthan.
Pollen dust on Rajasthan’s lake beds
The Akkadian drought also coincided with low rainfall for an extended period of time in North-Western India. Fossil remains of pollen dust (Gurdip Singh – 1967;1971) during this period shows a marked drop in rainfall. Surveys in Rajasthan lake beds showed,
After about 3500 yr B.P., the Lunkaransar profile indicated a desiccated lake bed; because no pollen was preserved, the pollen-climate calibration function was of no use for estimating the amount of the precipitation decline.
This drought and the tectonic movements were seemingly linked from India to Turkey – right upto Africa. North America was not spared from this climatic phenomenon. Sympathetic evidence has been found in Europe of this huge climatic disruption.
A severe drought in parts of low-latitude northeastern Africa and southwestern Asia 4200 yr ago caused major disruption to ancient civilizations. Stable isotope, trace element, and organic fluorescence data from a calcite flowstone collected from the well-watered Alpi Apuane karst of central-western Italy indicate that the climatic event responsible for this drought was also recorded in mid-latitude Europe.
abrupt drought events occurred conspicuously at ca. 12,000–11,500, 8500, 7500, 4500, 4000–3700, and 2000 uncalibrated radiocarbon years B.P. Further investigations are required to gain a more precise chronology of these events, which appear to have been crucial for some of the most salient developments in Africa’s prehistory.
Some drastic tectonic activity also coincided with this drought. In Turkey, it produced volcanic activity which disrupted lives. In India it affected Sindhu /Indus, and the Yamuna rivers. And gave birth to Ganga.
Most famously, this tectonic activity dried up the Saraswati river.
The Greeks have something to say
The drying up of the Saraswati river and the changes in the Sindhu /Indus river course, created many ghost towns, especially in North West India, upto the Sindh region. Strabo’s 17-volume work Geographica, has something interesting to say about deserted and abandoned villages and townships. It mentions thousands of villages and cities, in India – abandoned, during Alexander’s raid into Northern India.
Some 1500-2000 years after the demise of Saraswati and the change in the course of the Indus.
Aristobulus … says that when he was despatched upon some business into the country, he saw a tract of land deserted, which contained more than a thousand cities with their dependent villages ; the Indus, having left its proper channel, was diverted into another, on the left hand, much deeper, and precipitated itself into it like a cataract, so that it no longer watered the country by the (usual) inundation on the right hand, from which it had receded, and this was elevated above the level, not only of the new channel of the river, but above that of the (new) inundation.
What do the Indian texts say?
Saraswati in classical Indian texts
For centuries now, Indians ‘knew’ of the ‘lost’ Saraswati river. What is the source of this Indian oral narrative?
Saraswati is mentioned more than 60 times in the Rigveda. But, the Ganga gets only one mention – and that too, possibly a latter-day insertion. Saraswati, as the river is the “purest among the rivers, flowing from the mountains to the sea.” The sixth book of Rig Veda (6.61.2), describes the powerful Saraswati, in her course through the mountains, “slayeth the Paravatas.” In the Gritsamada verse (II.41.16), Saraswati is ambitame, naditame, devitame Saraswati. (“Saraswati, best of mothers, best river, best goddess.”).
As the river dried, Saraswati changed from being a river goddess to the goddess of learning, wisdom and music. Was it because most of the Indic texts and knowledge was composed along the banks of the Saraswati? Was the extinct river honoured by being elevated to ‘devi’ status!
As the Saraswati progressively dried up, migration to the Indo-Gangetic plains gathered steam. Indian textual narratives also changed. There are added allusions in Mahabharata to the underground Saraswati and there are numerous mentions of Ganga in the Mahabharata.
The earliest available report of the drying up of this river is in the epic literature of the Mahabharata where it says that the river went underground at Binasana, near the present town of Sirsa. The Mahabharata also mentions the reappearance of the Saraswati at three places down stream, then known as Chamasodbheda, Sirobheda and Nagobheda. (from The Lost Courses of the Saraswati River in the Great Indian Desert: New Evidence from Landsat Imagery, by Bimal Ghose, Amal Kar and Zahid Husain © 1979 The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).
This people “movement is reflected in the shift from Vedic literature that is centred on the Sarasvati to the Puranic literature that is centred on the Ganga.” How is the Saraswati river related to the ‘Indus Valley Civilization’? How is the dried up River Saraswati important to Indian history? How and why did the Saraswati river dry up?
Saraswati dries up
On the reasons for Saraswati drying up, the most acceptable hypotheses proposes that “tectonic activity in the northern Punjab … bifurcated the water of the Himalayas from the western drainage system of the Indus to the eastern drainage system of the Ganges”. Researchers have reconstructed that the original Saraswati possibly,
originated in Bandapunch masiff (Sarawati-Rupin glacier confluence at Naitwar in western Garhwal). Descending through Adibadri, Bhavanipur and Balchapur in the foothills to the plains, the river took roughly a southwesterly course, passing through the plains of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and finally it is believed to have debouched into the ancient Arabian Sea at the Great Rann of Kutch. In this long journey, Saraswati was believed to have had three tributaries, Shatadru (Sutlej) arising from Mount Kailas, Drishadvati from Siwalik Hills and the old Yamuna.
Based on satellite imagery and research, there is an apparent correlation between the dried up Saraswati river bed and most of the ‘Indus-Valley civilization’ archaeological sites.
Earlier, even before the LANDSAT pictures from NASA, surveyors were intrigued about
the source of the perennial supply of subsurface water in western part of the Great Indian Desert where annual rainfall is so meagre and erratic (less than 150 mm) that it cannot contribute substantially to the perennial wells of the area.
Some 160 years ago, Saraswati’s dry river bed impressed most who saw it. In the middle of nineteenth century, a British surveyor described Saraswati’s dry river bed which
runs through an open country with little or no cultivation, and may be increased to any breadth; camels may march by it fifty abreast on either side of column of troops.
While the Saraswati dried up, it left behind tell-tale markers.
ISRO has dug up 23 tube wells along the course of the river mapped by it across 70 kilometers west of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
The results have been startling. All the wells have provided good quality drinking water with very little Total Dissolved Salts (TDS). The water itself was found at a depth ranging from 35 to 60 meters which is unusual for the area which is covered with sand dunes.
“We also dug a well 50 meters away from the channel and yielded water with very high TDS content proving quality water exists only around the old river bed of the extinct river,” he added.
In 1968, deep bores were sunk along the dried river bed.
The alternate plentiful supply and scarcity of water in the river is confirmed by the boring in the river bed by Raikes, 1968.
This tectonic-climatic disturbance affected a large swath of the Indian sub-continent. What part of India did this combination of drought and tectonic activity affect?
Contours of the Indus Valley-Saraswati Basin
Most affected by this global drought and tectonic movements was a cluster of Indian cities and villages along the Saraswati Basin. In the last 60 years, archaeologists look at the area covered by the thousands of these sites,
… so vast in its extent that at its peak it is estimated to have encompassed a staggering 1.5 million sq km — an area larger than Western Europe. In size, it dwarfed contemporary civilisations in the Nile Valley in Egypt and in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys in Sumer (modern Iraq). Its geographical boundaries are now believed to extend up to the Iranian border on the west, Turkmenistan and Kashmir in the north, Delhi in the east and the Godavari Valley in the south …
Over the last nearly 60 years, research has expanded. It has also shown that
Out of nearly 2,600 archaeological sites of varying sizes, over 1500 archaeological settlements were found on the Sarasvati river basin; there are also major settlements (some of) which are larger than the settlements of Harappa and Mohenjodaro (100 ha. each), Lakhmirwala (Bhatinda) (225 ha.), Rakhigari (Hissar) (224 ha.), Gurnikalan One (Bhatinda) (144 ha.), Hasanpur (Bhatinda) (100 ha), Ganweriwala (Bahawalpur) (81.5 ha), Kotada (Jamnagar) (72 ha.), Nagoor (Sukkur) (50 ha.), Nindowari (Jhawalan) (50 ha), Tharo Waro Daro (Sukkur) (50 ha.), Mangli Nichi (Ludhiana) (40 ha.) (underlined text supplied).
What is in a name
Saraswati archaeological sites, given a misleading name of ‘Indus Valley Civilization’ are the oldest date-able evidence of Indian culture – going back to earlier than 3000 BC. With retro-fitted history, the ‘discovery’ of the ‘Indus Valley Civilization’ was inconvenient, for Western history, based on Biblical logic of the Ussher-Lightfoot chronology.
There are two fallacies with the nomenclature of ‘Indus Valley Civilization’. There is no proof altogether, that the Indus Valley Civilization was separate and different from Indian civilization. By the simple act of naming it as Indus Valley Civilization, Marshall-Woolley-Wheeler-Piggott have made out illogical assumptions – without a shred of evidence. One – as though Indus Valley was apart from the Indian civilization. Para-dropped by a passing alien ship, maybe? Or two, the subsequent evolution and developments in India were discrete and unrelated to the Saraswati sites. There is no evidence to support either of the ‘ideas’.
The other major reason is that since the sites are clustered around the Saraswati river bed, the term Indus Valley ‘civilization’ is misleading – and no longer valid. This cluster of sites should correctly be called Saraswati Basin sites.
How did the entire Saraswati theory come about? How did this start off?
The Saraswati Theory
After Indian independence (1947), faced with an acute shortage of research sites, Indian academic establishment broke new ground.
India was left with just one Indus site, in Gujarat and a couple of other sites towards the north, so there was an urgency to discover more Indus sites in India. This has been among the big achievements of Indian archaeology post-independence – that hundreds of Indus sites today are known, not only in Gujarat but also in Rajasthan, in Punjab, in Haryana, and even in Utter (sic) Pradesh.
Mohenjo daro and Harappa excavations now fall in modern Pakistan. In the face of limited access to sites in Pakistan, Indian archaeologists focused on Indian sites. Many sites were discovered in the post-colonial Indian area – apart from Harappa and Mohenjo daro. There are whispers that historians and archaeologists from India (especially, the Saraswati school) have been denied access. Some Indian archaeologists have charged HARP with interjection of newer kinds ‘politics’ into research of the Saraswati Basin and Indus Valley.
Since Harappa and Mohenjodaro were the first to be excavated in the 1920s, Sir John Marshall, who headed the team of explorers, called it the Indus civilisation because it flourished in the valley of that river. Marshall’s announcement wowed the world and pushed India’s known history back by about 2,000 years. At the time of Independence there was no real need to change the epithet as barely a dozen Indus sites had been explored. With the prime sites, Mohenjodaro and Harappa, going to Pakistan, however, a feverish hunt began in India to locate and excavate Indus sites — a race that its neighbour soon joined. In doing so, they began uncovering a civilisation … vast in its extent … (from The Indus Riddle, By Raj Chengappa, ellipsis supplied).
Building the Saraswati hypotheses
Considering the importance of the Saraswati sites, to the world (and Indian) history, Indian academics used a multi-disciplinary approach. Evidence from extensive radio-carbon dating, satellite imagery, hydrological studies, statistical analysis was integrated for creating a context for Saraswati sites.
since 1972 topographical, hydrological and national remote-sensing investigation done by the Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad and the Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad, brought out evidence for the existence of a mighty river in the region over which the Ghaggar flows today. Tectonic disturbances around 1800 B.C. which raised the Aravalli ranges in Rajasthan, it was said, changed the directions of the important rivers flowing down the Shiwaliks. The Yamuna turned east and went on to join the Ganga, making that river the mightiest in the subcontinent. The Sutlej began to shift westwards towards the Indus. Thus the once mighty river was swallowed up …
In the 1980-90 decade, India’s own satellite went into space, remote sensing costs decreased and applications increased. After years of mapping and images, it became apparent that the ‘mythical’ Saraswati river in fact did in fact exist at one point of time. Researchers, from India, A Ghosh and from Pakistan, MR Mughal have shown that the drying up of Saraswati, was a fact. It is surmised that
tectonic events must have severed the glacier connection and cut off the supply of melt water from the glacier to this river; as a result, the Saraswati became non-perennial and dependent on monsoon rains. The diversion of the river water through separation of its tributaries led to the conversion of the river as disconnected lakes and pools; ultimately it was reduced to a dry channel bed. Therefore, the river Saraswati has not disappeared but only dried up in some stretches
Further, it is but a natural corollary, that “as the river dried up completely in the second millenium BC, albeit in several stages and with several reversals …” settlements and towns at Saraswati were abandoned.
It has been pointed out how
“Lothal, believed to be the oldest dockyard in the world, is located at the head of the Gulf of Khambhat, now situated about 23 km away from the shoreline and about 12 m above the mean sea-level, on the left bank of river Bhogawa … clear evidence of southward shifting of shoreline by about 23 km”
4000 year-old Indian oral history has now been vindicated by modern research.
These tectonic shifts that dried up Saraswati, also had different effects on the cities of the Indus-Saraswati complex.
Some 90 miles down-stream from Mohenjo daro, is the Manchar Lake, at Sehwan, spread over large area. It was recently estimated at some 24 sq. km, and in 1890, as some “twenty miles by ten” – that is some 200 sq. miles, the largest fresh-water lake in Asia. These tectonic shifts , probably, created the Mancher lake at Sehwan. This lake plausibly, flooded Mohenjo daro some 7 times. The many layers of silt at Mohenjo daro can be accounted for the flooding of the Lake Mancher, at Sehwan. Even today peopled by the Mohana fishermen-tribe, who some believe to be remnants of the original Mohenjo daro residents – an assumption based on thin evidence.
There are modern recorded parallels of such events.
In 1819 an earth tremor in Kutch created a huge natural dam 75 miles long and upto 16 miles wide that disrupted the flow of the Eastern Nara branch of the Indus. After 7 years, however, the rivers floodwaters created a breach and the Nara resumed its flow to the sea.
Harappa seems to have suffered more due to reduction in the inflow in the Ghaggar-Hakra rivers due to change in the flows of either the Yamuna (into the Ganga) or the Sutlej (into the Indus).
To this cataclysmic event, add the long travelling global drought.
Politics and theology in archaeology
Artifices and contradictions in the story proposed by Marshall-Woolley-Wheeler-Piggott structure started showing up, as more and more data piled up. Outcome – the Saraswati Theory, a more unified approach to history.
Channels have been mapped, soil sediments studied, groundwaters analysed and earthquake history investigated. And not all of this is recent work. European colonial surveyors, agents and adventurers of all kinds who travelled at ground level, as it were, observed, measured and recorded what they saw. They also noticed that this arid, thinly populated wasteland was densely peppered with the remains of ancient, permanent settlements — many of them city-size, which could never have existed without abundant year-round water. In some cases, these pioneers recorded what they heard too, such as folk traditions which told of a time when a great river flowed through the region.
The earliest and the most well-known Indus Valley and the Saraswati Basin sites are now in Pakistan. Pakistani sites are controlled by an ‘independent’ American-Pakistani project – named HARP (Harappa Archaeological Research Project). Accepting the Sarswati thesis is, but anathema, in Islamic Pakistan, which is an important part of the HARP project. Not to forget, that it makes Western historical research of the last 150 years redundant – which complicates research. More than 10,000 libraries will have to junk more than a million history books.
What further held up research in the Saraswati belt was the fact that two sides squared up are the US-Pakistan HARP collaboration, on one side. The Saraswati team on the other.
Neither is asking or willing to give a quarter in this struggle to write history – the history of mankind. Seemingly, the Saraswati vs Indus has acquired overtones of India vs Pakistan.
And may history be damned!
Most of the Saraswati Basin work was done at Indian institutions, under differing degrees of political patronage and dispensations. With multinational collaboration from India, Pakistan, Europe and USA, with many false starts and tangential movements, the Saraswati Theory has acquired a certain acceptance.
This acceptance, in spite of spirited opposition from HARP, has possibly made the WASP-Pakistan, narrow-cast establishment under the Farmer-Sproat-Witzel combine defensive. Not to be outdone, having failed at the exclusion and shutting out game, the same players are trying to work from ‘within’ the Indian system.
Foreign universities are all for bartering their technological expertise and resources to get an opportunity to work on the unexcavated sites here … Director, ASI, told The Indian Express, “We have received applications from a number of foreign institutions like Harvard University, Cambridge University and others …”
Before rushing pell-mell into such ‘joint-ventures’, it may be worthwhile to remember the dubious role played by Western archaeologists in various parts of the world.
Tales you lose, Heads I win
Some ‘historians’ have come up with the thinnest of ‘evidence’ against the Saraswati theory. Like rivers from neighbouring geographies with similar sounding names.
Much like York became New York, so also there is Megiddo (of the battle fame), Makedonia (home of Alexander), Mary Magdeline came from Magadan, Megasthenes came from Magasthan (Magan, land of the Magi) – all candidates for Magadha cognates. Kannauj near Patna finds an echo in Kahnuj of ancient Carmania (now Kerman, the largest province in modern Iran). Byzantium is a Vaijayanti cognate. Byzantine traditions were influenced by India. The name Byzantium itself was possibly derived from Vaijayanti – also the ancient capital of Satavahana Empire, now in Goa. The Greek and Egyptian cities of Thebes are possibly cognates of To Po (Upper Tibet) – now known as Tibet. As does Judea – derived from Ayodhya->Yehudiya->Judea.
Saraswati, a celebrated river, also had cognates. Harahvati /Harkhawati in South-West Afghanistan is another ‘suspect’ for the Saraswati mentioned in the Vedas, Sarayu with Harirud. There are other such thin claims that Gomti and Gomal in Baluchistan are the same.
Archaeology in India is a young discipline. Since most Indian population centres have been existence for centuries, archaeological excavations have not been possible or wide ranging. India’s population density also does not allow vast archaeological projects to happen. And anyway, both ,
Indian and foreign archaeologists often invoked invasion /diffusion as tools for explaining away the origins of fully-fledged archaeological cultures ranging in age from the Lower Paleolithic to the early historic period as well as individual traits concerning pottery, technology and other aspects. Africa, West and Central Asia and Europe were the favourite source areas. (From Theory in Archaeology: A World Perspective By Peter J. Ucko, page 132)
Lower Paleolithic is about 250,000 years ago and early historic period in India is 3000 years ago.
Where are the texts, the systems
The real marker in this case may be the depth of the civilization. Why is it that there is no evidence of Sanskrit in all these ‘Central Asian’ locations from where these ‘Aryans’ came from? Why did Vedic learning survive only in India? How is it that Vedic Gods survived only in India – and not in the ‘Aryan homelands’. How come there are lakhs of Sanskrit texts in India, but none where Sanskrit supposedly originated from? In Central Asia!
And such legless theories, abound. For instance, the mythical ‘Indus Valley priest-king’, based on, “a few stone sculptures of seated male figures, such as the intricately carved and colored Priest King, so called even though there is no evidence he was a priest or king.”
One the other hand, the Saraswati river theory, supported by strong evidence, is picking up more adherents and evidence. Fortunately, there are many sites in India, where research can continue, without access to Mohenjo daro and Harappa. For instance the
excavation of Lothal, an Indus port town located off the Gujarat coast. It shattered notions that the Indus was a landlocked civilisation, conservative and isolated, and as a result sank without a trace. Rao uncovered a dock 700 ft long — even bigger than the one currently at Visakhapatnam. It took an estimated million bricks to build it. Next to the dockyard were massive granaries and specialised factories for bead-making. Hundreds of seals were found, some showing Persian Gulf origin, indicating that Lothal was a major port of exit and entry.
Possehl, who made a recent study, found that in 2000 BC in Pakistan’s Sindh district the sites were down from 86 to 6 and in Cholistan, 174 to 41. But in India the sites in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan exploded from 218 to 853. Possehl asks: “How can this be construed as an eclipse? We are looking at a highly mobile people.”
Dwellers from these settlements moved to other cities. The HARP-Pakistani school of thinking sticks to the old artifice,
“that the Indus River changed course, which would have hampered the local agricultural economy and the city’s importance as a center of trade.
But no evidence exists that flooding destroyed the city, and the city wasn’t totally abandoned … and … a changing river course doesn’t explain the collapse of the entire Indus civilization.
So, what does explain this, Witzelbhai? Blue-eyed, blonde, White Aryan invaders, thundering down the Khyber, I presume!
We do not see archaeological finds of the Saraswati type in the rest of India, because the rest of India continued with life, at existing settlements. Most Indian cities have been settled for centuries – and have not seen vast archaeological excavations. And in all these centuries, Indic peoples moved up and down from South to North to South to East and West – from living settlements to living settlements.
Given the vastness of the Indus empire, V.H. Sonawane, director, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History in the MS University of Baroda, points out: “The first casualty is the earlier notion of a Harappan homogeneity. It is clear that there was tremendous regional diversity just as we have in modern India.”(from The Indus Riddle, By Raj Chengappa, ellipsis supplied).
As Gregory Possehl confirms, that there “was no general “eclipse” but a process of deurbanization and a shift eastward in the general distribution of the population.”
In the ’70s, when Braj Basi Lal, a former ASI director-general, began excavating Kalibangan, a site in the desert sands of Rajasthan, he was amazed to find evidence of a field of crossed furrows dated to around 2900 BC, preserved by a strange quirk of nature. Looking around he found that farmers in the region used a similar ploughing technique even after 5,000 years. The ancient houses had tandoors (earthen ovens) similar to ones found in kitchens in the villages in the area. As Lal says, “It was as if the present was the past and that despite the passage of time not much had changed.” (from The Indus Riddle, By Raj Chengappa, ellipsis supplied).
Independent research in Pakistan, by the noted specialist, RM Mughal echoes the same. The ability of the Indic people to live with diversity in skin colour, language, food, lifestyle, trade and thinking is an age old phenomenon.
Mughal’s studies in Pakistan have helped chalk out an approximate chronology of the changes. The beginnings of village farming communities and pastoral camps were reported as early as 7000 to 5000 BC. But developed farming communities, which grew wheat and barley, emerged around 4300 BC. In a site called Mehrgarh near the Bolan river in Baluchistan province, there are signs of agricultural surplus with the establishment of community storage silos. The conclusion: Sorry to use the cliche, but we had unity in diversity even then. (from The Indus Riddle, By Raj Chengappa, ellipsis supplied).
To make sense of this cataclysmic event, one also needs to read the account of how the Ganga was brought down from the heavens – which we will in the next post. The Ramayana takes much time in describing how the Ganga was ‘persuaded’ down from the heavens. The holy Indian trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh contributed their efforts and might to his ‘cause’.
An Indian summer
1972. India, basking in the warm after-glow of the military victory in the 1971 War with Pakistan. The Oil crisis was yet to hit India. Indians were taking hesitant first steps towards a remittance economy. Rich, expatriate neighbours, relatives and friends were spreading the words of ‘phoren’ opportunities to Indians. The 1973 Oil shock and the Bombay High discovery were a few years in the future.
As were India’s remote sensing satellites (1979).
That year, was the first time I heard about the supposedly subterranean Saraswati river. From my grand-father, at Haridwar संगम sangam (meaning union). The Indian oral narrative, goes that Saraswati meets up with ‘sister’ rivers, Ganga and ‘Jumna’ at Haridwar. I did the dip at संगम sangam, as any संगम sangam of rivers is a considered shubh (a fertility symbol?) – and a dip is called for. Later, my mother too, corroborated the Saraswati ‘story’.
In (was it?) 1973, a small rivulet, which joins the Musi at Hyderabad, (a tributary of Krishna river) was at full flow, due to huge cloud-burst.
That year, on dubki poonam, (the first full moon after Diwali, reserved for a bath at any river), the entire extended-family was bundled into a few vehicles, to go for a dip in this insignificant ‘river’. Never after 1973, did I see that rivulet flow so strongly again.
In 1977, at Seringapatinam, we did a dip at the Kaveri sangam – a संगम sangam of two arms (Kaveri and Lokapavani) of the same river. At Rishikesh, the संगम sangam of Ganges and Chandrabhaga, I did daily dips for about 45 days in 1972. Also at Rishikesh, is the Triveni ghats, the meeting of Gunga, Jumna and Saraswati. I am yet to go to the Triveni ghat at Somnath – the joining of Kapil, Hiran and River Saraswati (again).
My experience was pretty much like the experience of Anusha, a housewife-mother-blogger from Mumbai, who writes
125 Kms from Varanasi is the sacred city of Allahabad where the three greatest rivers of India meet … The Ganga … from the Himalayas, Gangotri, passing … Rishikesh and Haridwar … industrial city of Kanpur, before arriving at Allahabad to join her sisters as she makes her way to Kashi. Yamuna also begins … in the Himalayas, at Yamunotri … passes through Mathura and Brindavan, (after) association of Krishna, … arrives at Allahabad … she joins the Ganga … Saraswati arrives at Allahabad from god alone knows where, for she is an underground river, … remains unseen … The place where these 3 rivers merge is the Triveni Sangam
The three rivers maintain their identity and are visibly different as they merge. While the Yamuna is deep but calm and greenish in colour, the Ganga is shallow, but forceful and clear. The Saraswati remains hidden, but the faithful believe that she makes her presence felt underwater.
A leading educationist and currently chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Yash Pal, who had published in 1980 in his own words “a small paper on the existence of Saraswati river which attracted attention,” concurred with the view. “Surveys so far have brought out clearly the path the river had taken when in flow,” the national research professor told The Pioneer. He did a stint with ISRO (which has played a pivotal role in the probes so far) from 1973-1980 where he set up the Space Application Centre.
A case of India’s oral history vindicated by modern research!
- A Dictionary Of An Ancient World (translaborberlin.wordpress.com)
- Tablet full of crude jokes and riddles about beer is found – dating from the time of the biblical Exodus (dailymail.co.uk)
- Slaves or not, Babylonians were like us, says book (physorg.com)
- Nippur (shatarshamallim.wordpress.com)
- On the Evolution of Cuneiform (shatarshamallim.wordpress.com)
What Haiti needs
Haiti was stuck by an earthquake measuring “7.0-magnitude quake, Haiti’s worst in two centuries, struck at 1653 local time (2153 GMT) on Tuesday, just 15km (10 miles) south-west of Port-au-Prince and close to the surface.” More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been affected. Haiti has been through worse – and the Haitians have always pulled through. What Haiti needs is non-interference.
During an earlier segment with a reporter for Robertson’s CBN News, the televangelist had questioned whether the earthquake in Haiti was a “blessing in disguise.”
“They need to have … a great turning to God,” he concluded, adding that the earthquake may have been a direct consequence of their “Satanic pact”.
“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it,” Robertson said during a broadcast of The 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network. (via US televangelist claims Haiti earthquake ‘a blessing in disguise’ | The Daily Telegraph).
What is it that Haiti did a ‘long time ago’ that made Pat Robertson, do rah-rah for this ‘divine wrath’!
I know what Haiti did
Haiti was the world’s first republic, set up by slaves – after a war of freedom. Haiti’s, support for Simon Bolivar ended the Spanish Empire in South America. Most importantly, it forced the West to free all African slaves across the Europe and Americas. The second major ‘crime’ that the Haitians committed was that they rejected a ‘liberating’ Christianity – and continued with their voudou religion.
For all this, the West has not forgiven Haiti!
Messianic Rev.Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson, more than 40 years ago, founded the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN), which according to “Nielsen Media Research, The 700 Club, aired each weekday, has averaged 863,000 viewers in the last year” in the US alone. Some time earlier, Pat Robertson, had called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela – for which he later duly apologized. I wonder if the West would forgive if any Iranian Ayatollah issued a fatwa against a Western leader, and later apologized! Even earlier, when the Israeli Prime Minister suffered a stroke, he pronounced that as ‘punishment from God!’ Especially malevolent, Rev.Robertson’s God is, I must say!
In 1999, he signed a deal with Bank of Scotland, part of the Lloyd’s Banking Group, later the HBOS, for a Internet-telephone-banking venture. When the deal was called off, Pat Robertson launched a scathing attack. “In Scotland, you can’t believe how strong the homosexuals are,” Mr Robertson said on his Virginia-based Christian Broadcasting Network and his 700 Club television show. Pat Robertson, coming in at NO.2, defeated George Bush in the 1988 Republican Party’s US Presidential nomination race, at the Iowa caucuses. Robertson’s ‘message of moral regeneration‘ appealed to the Americans.
The Magna Carta sanctioned slavery. In various judgments, US Supreme Court, the ultimate arbiter of the US Constitution, upheld slavery. Vatican’s, Council of Gangra, re-affirmed its faith in slavery. The administrators of the teachings of the “Lord of lords, and King of kings.” (Revelation 17: 14) at the Council Of Gangra, 325 AD, issued edicts approving slavery – as did many other Vatican edicts. Pat Robertson, is just one in a long line of such Christian leaders, to support slavery.
In a twisted way, Pat Robertson maybe right.
Talking of money, rich foreigners and expats, who are keeping Haiti in misery, have lost a lot more than Haitians have.
Tell Haiti you care
Send Haiti your best wishes, your moral support. If you live in a less exploitative society than before, or a more exploitative society, remember, it was Haiti that stuck the first blow. A blow that en-slaver’s have not forgotten 200 years later. To Haiti, we owe whatever liberty, freedom we have – or aspire to.
I don’t know how your money will help them. They may not need your money (I guess), but you should give them your moral support (I strongly suggest). Just send a <ding> to this post. Or ping it. Whatever you do, just make it loud enough that your voice can reach Haiti.
In their hour of tragedy.
A war of a different kind
During the 1857 War against the colonial rule of Britain in India, unable to gain military advantage, British armed forces started using Indian populations as human shield. For each military success of the Indian armies, the British armies exacted retribution on the local non-combatant populations.
This reign of terror and brutality on home populations disarmed Indian armies and ended the war. A impressive work on this period is by Amaresh Misra – a film critic and journalist, who was moved sufficiently to research for a few years, because, “Since 1957, no Indian has written a comprehensive account of the Revolt. Indian historians have done a limited work”. Another step in this direction is Parag Tope’s forth coming book, Operation Red Lotus, on the life and wars of Tatiya Tope.
And after subduing the Indian population with this brutal campaign, Britain started a more insidious war – a propaganda war. History started getting twisted, perverted, mutilated – and over the next 100 years, Indian and world history was changed beyond recognition.
Let the games begin
After 1857, British racist propaganda and cultural baggage came covertly – to gain better traction at home and in the colonies. For instance, Priya Joshi, a researcher shows that after 1857, book shipments from Britain to India increased by a factor of three.
The death of Semiramis
In this propaganda campaign, the most interesting bit is the cold-blooded murder of the historical Semiramis. Readers will find that Semiramis as an Assyrian Queen till the 1850-60 period Western histories.
The Marchese Tommaso II of Saluzzo commissioned Jacques Iverny in 15th century to paint Semiramis, (alongwith Lampheto, Marpasia, Synoppe, Thamiris, Menalippe, Hippolyta, Orithyia, and Penthesilea) now known as The Nine Worthies. Chaucer’s character, Sowdannesse, is charged of being a ‘Virago, thou Semyrame the secounde’ in his Man of Law’s Tale. Edward Degas and Guercine made Semiramis the subject of their paintings. Calderon used her character in his plays. Mozart died before he could complete his melodrama based on Semiramis. A 16th century painter, Philip Galle used Semiramis and Babylon as the subjects of his paintings.
Mired in legend and prejudice, Semiramis is discredited in modern Western history – especially starting from 1853-1857. Her very existence denied, accused of incest, Semiramis has been tarred and condemned to the rubbish heap of modern history – and the Bible.
Semiramis established an empire that lasted, practically till WW1. Some 300 years, after the reign of Semiramis, the Assyrian Empire passed into Persian hands. From the Persians, into Alexander’s lap.
Suddenly, from 1860 onwards, Western history started treating Semiramis as a wanton, decadent, probably mythical, a perverted sluttish character.
Semiramis biggest defeat was at the hands of Indians. And soon after her defeat, was the defeat of Cyrus the Great, at the hands of Indians again. And before that were the Battles of Meggido and Kadesh, in which Indic armies confronted the Slave Empire of the Egypt. Such an Indian history was very inconvenient for the British Raj.
The Alexander mythos
Alexander’s raid of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, finally turned out to be a overthrow of the Achaemenid dynasty, usurpers of the Assyrian Empire. Unable to make headway into India, as the Indian Brahmins had helped and influenced Indian princes to organize and support the Indian war against Alexander. Greek sources cite, after this realization, at ‘The City of Brahmans’, Alexander massacred an estimated 8000-10,000 of these non-combatant Brahmans.
Alexander’s massacres in India, a colonial historian informs us (without naming a source), earned him an “epithet … assigned (to) him by the Brahmins of India, The Mighty Murderer.” This Indian Brahmanic characterization of Alexander, commonly taught to English schoolchildren and present in English college texts, as The Mighty Murderer, curiously disappeared from Western-English texts soon after 1860 – and instead now “a positive rose-tinted aura surrounds Alexander” … !
Since Indian texts were completely silent about the very existence of Alexander, colonial Western historians had a free run. Using hagiographic Greek texts as the base, Alexander became the conqueror of the world.
Max Mueller – Son of Hegel
Behind this propaganda was possibly a man who is much admired (wrongly) in India today – Max Mueller. For instance in Max Muller’s colonial propagandist history, when it comes to Indian triumphs over Semiramis, she becomes half legendary. Yet in another book, the same Semiramis becomes one of ‘the great conquerors of antiquity.’ In a matter of a few pages, he dismisses Indian history completely, in a half-Hegelian manner.
Among Max Mueller’s cohorts, was Karl Marx, who wrote from London, on Friday, June 10, 1853 on India, for the New-York Herald Tribune thus
Hindostan is an Italy of Asiatic dimensions, the Himalayas for the Alps, the Plains of Bengal for the Plains of Lombardy, the Deccan for the Apennines, and the Isle of Ceylon for the Island of Sicily. The same rich variety in the products of the soil, and the same dismemberment in the political configuration. Just as Italy has, from time to time, been compressed by the conqueror’s sword into different national masses, so do we find Hindostan, when not under the pressure of the Mohammedan, or the Mogul, or the Briton, dissolved into as many independent and conflicting States as it numbered towns, or even villages. Yet, in a social point of view, Hindostan is not the Italy, but the Ireland of the East. And this strange combination of Italy and of Ireland, of a world of voluptuousness and of a world of woes, is anticipated in the ancient traditions of the religion of Hindostan. That religion is at once a religion of sensualist exuberance, and a religion of self-torturing asceticism; a religion of the Lingam and of the juggernaut; the religion of the Monk, and of the Bayadere.
“The East bowed low before the blast
In patient, deep disdain,
She let the legions thunder past,
And plunged in thought again.”
Matthew Arnold’s influence in Indian education can be gauged by the fact that Indian-English language poetry was for long called derisively as “Matthew Arnold in a Saree”. Just before 1857 War, the works of another ‘influential’ poet, John Keats, became popular. In his hubristic haze, Keats wrote how,
The kings of Ind their jewel-sceptres vail,
And from their treasures scatter pearled hail;
Great Brahma from his mystic heaven groans,
And all his priesthood moans,
Before young Bacchus’ eye-wink turning pale.
Much of modern history’s debates and questions were born during this time – verily created to wage a propaganda war against India – and the world. India’s cultural stature in the pantheon of world’s societies was reduced to a minimal role – and the Greek Miracle was born.
In the dying days of the Raj
This propaganda war continued well for another 100 years. In the middle of WW2, Britain pulled out a general from the Italian theatre of war. Brigadier General Mortimer Wheeler, the general in question, was sent to India – to head colonial India’s archaeological operations.
One evening in early August 1943, Brigadier-General Mortimer Wheeler was resting in his tent after a long day of poring over maps, drawing up plans for invasion of Sicily. Mortimer Wheeler was invited to become the director general of archaeology by the India Office of the British government in its last years of rule in South Asia … Summoning a general from the battlefields of Europe was an extraordinary measure, an admission both of the desperate condition of Indian archaeology and an acknowledgment of its vital importance. (from The Strides of Vishnu: Hindu Culture … – Google Books).
Why would the glorious British Empire, on which the sun never set, struggling for its very existence, in the middle of WW2, suddenly pull a general back from the battlefield? Remember, the deceptive Operation Mincement had just been completed. The Allies for readying their armies for their assault on Hitler in Europe. The outcome of the war was far from certain.
And they put a Brigadier-General into archaeology! That too, Indian archaeology. Not Egyptian, not Greek! Especially, when it was clear, that they would be departing from India – sooner rather than later.
Right choice … right time
Considering what theories came from Mortimer Wheeler’s rather fertile ‘imagination’ and his rigourous archaeological process, in hindsight, from a Western perspective, this was sound decision. There may be the facile answer that the British were, after all ‘searching for history and truth’.
And it led Mortimer Wheeler to remark,
“They demonstrate with astonishing clarity the extent to which the brief transit of Alexander did in fact Hellenize almost instantly vast tracts of Asia populated previously by nomads or semi-nomads and villagers”
It is this one incident which possibly contains answers to many unanswered questions like: –
- The amount of energy expended by the West in defending the Aryan Invasion /Migration Theory,
- The lack of access to Indian scholars of the archaeological sites in Pakistan
- The many myths in Indian history
- The clues to the partition of India
- The dating problems
Just why did the world’s foremost imperial power, struggling for its very existence, suddenly pull a general from the battle field, in the middle of WW2 – and put him onto the job of digging dirt.
Only one explanation fits – it had to be a struggle for its own existence at a higher level!