Indic Justice – rediscover or reinvent?

More like Amartya Sen has foot in mouth disease?

More like Amartya Sen has foot in mouth disease?

Indic Justice …

The on-going saga of the Ambani brothers’ dispute, brings home how deeply and completely Indic norms of justice and fair play have been lost. The Ambani brothers have approached the Prime Minister and are pressing their cases in the Supreme Court for justice. Such a form of dispute redressal is alien and remote to Indic thought.

The other apparently unrelated ‘event’ is the much promoted and publicised book, The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen, has no clue about justice (at least on Indic thoughts on justice). Apart from a few token mentions about Ashoka Maurya and Akbar Moghul, he has very little to say about Indic thought on justice.

But he speaks very volubly on Western thinkers and thought on justice.

The wise king delivers justice

To bring out the contrast, one has only to read the Biblical story of King Solomon’s justice (where two prostitutes claimed the surviving baby as theirs). The point worth noting is that this paradigm of justice centralizes solutions and concentrates power in the hands of some central authorities.

So, whether it King Solomon or Caliph Haroun Al Rashid (the King in disguise), or the Turkish Çapanoglu Ahmet Pasha (of the bell of justice fame which even a donkey could ring to summon the king for justice) – the model was the all-knowing King. Variations of the Donkey /Horse and the Bell of Justice story is localized and retold in various cultures.

King Solomons Justice
King Solomon’s Justice

Going back earlier, the Desert Bloc model of seeking justice was captured in the story of Tehuti-nekht (the oppressive overseer); a sekhti’ (the poor salt-trader) the ‘clever’ Meruitensa (The Grand Vizier /Supreme Judge) and The Wise Pharoah Nebkanra.

The Duke of Venice perpetuates the myth of justice in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. The more than 120 Doges of Venice who ruled Venice for nearly a 1000 years, preserved the myth of justice during the Middle Ages.

In modern times, as republican democracy made Emperors and Kings redundant, the Smart Lawyer took over the justice function, in the garb of legal thrillers.

Perry Mason replaced The Wise Emperor as the fount of justice. John Grisham keeps company with many writers about legal-eagles, who go out to save the innocent from the hangman- and send the guilty into the dock. Like John Buchan, GK Chesterton, Wilkie Collins, et al.

Hollywood used the legal thriller genre with assembly line regularity – with successes galore, like Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution (1957), with earlier instances like Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich, or the screen adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), or the more modern Erin Brockovich (2000)and My Cousin Vinny (1992).

All quiet on the Indian front …

In more than 1000 Indic books, that record more than 10,000 years of history, there is no instance of any dispute reaching an Indic King.

The longest ancient epic in the world, The Mahabharata has no incident where a private dispute reached Yudhisthir (though a mongoose could lecture the King about sacrifices and yagnas). There was never any case of private dispute, recorded in the Ramayana, that reached Ramachandra (though a dhobi could ‘inform’ the king on bazaar talk about the Queen Sita). Even a poor Brahman, Kautsa, could reach King Raghu for help in the disbursal of guru-dakshina गुरु-दक्षिणा.

Kannagi and Devanthi - The Dream, from the epic Silappadhikaram

Kannagi and Devanthi - The Dream, from the epic Silappadhikaram

In yet another instance, rulers were warned against disproportionate punishment – through the Mandavya incident. Mandavya, was punished by Yama (the God of Death) for his ‘crimes’ as a child, of hurting insects. Through a chain events, Mandavya ended up, impaled on a trident /stake.  After best efforts to remove the offending weapon, a part remains inside  Mandavya’s body.

With a trident through his body, Mandavya confronted Yama. Mandavya, the sage, berates Yama for ‘criminalising’ children. Codifying the principle of juvenile justice, Mandavya exhorts “that no action committed by a human being till he is fourteen years of age shall be regarded as a sin  which it would thereafter.” In turn, Mandavya curses Yama to be born as a shudra child – to learn about the ‘reality’ of life. Yama, born to shudra woman, became Vidura, Dhritarashtra’s court.

In Buddha’s childhood, an injured swan becomes a point of legal dispute with his cousin, Devadatta. The injured swan, Devadatta’s hunting /archery practice target, was claimed by Siddhartha. Some minister’s preferred Prince Siddhartha’s claim, due to his position. Since the hunt was not for food, but for pleasure, Devadutta’s claim over the swan was seen as weak. Finally the claim of the saviour was seen as superior to the claim of the hunter /captor. Replace the swan, with a slave, and the legal principle for any dispute between a slave-owner versus slave-liberator, is established. The same principle is evidenced in Artha-shastra in many shlokas.

The Tamil classic, Silappadikaram, is ancient Tamil drama about the perils of royal justice.  Silappadhikaram is, a literary critic informs us is “a saga of the of the cult of the Goddess Pattini … the first ripe fruit of the Aryan-Dravidian synthesis in Tamil Nadu.” Who is Goddess Pattini? Once a widely worshipped Goddess in South India, now limited to modern Sri Lanka “Pattini was an angry deity, whose anger was directed at evil people and she is also associated with rational justice.” The destruction of the city by Pattini, the Goddess of ‘rational’ justice, is a warning against vengeful royal ‘justice’ – and instead move towards ameliorative Indic justice system.

Elango Adigal warns Indic kings from taking over and  interfering with dispute resolution mechanisms. The Pandyan King, Neduncheziyan, in  Silappadikaram, comes to grief, after royal intervention goes horribly wrong, resulting in miscarriage of justice.

It gets worse! No prisons …

Modern econometric modelling shows that for much of the last 1000 years, India has been a significant economic power – till the 1900. China and India, this analysis estimates, for the last 1000 years, accounted for 50% of the world economy. Statistical analyses showed India with a world trade share of 25% for much of the 500 years during 1400-1900. The interesting (historical) aspect of the criminal management story is the absence of any surviving mass jails in India prior to colonial India. Just how did pre-colonial India, one of the largest (and most prosperous) populations of the world, deal with crime and criminals?

Without prisons!

But then crime rate in India must be really high …

Cut to modern India. With such an inheritance, India has the lowest prison population in the world. How can India have such a low prison population, with a poor police-to-population ratio and a crime rate which is not above the average – in spite of a large civilian gun population.

All the 5 indices (below) create a bias for a lawless Indian society and rampant crime. With these five indices, namely: –

  1. Police to population ratio (‘increase police force’)
  2. Prison population (‘put more criminals behind bars’)
  3. Capital punishment (‘kill enough criminals to instill fear’)
  4. Poverty (‘it is poverty which the root of all crime’)
  5. Gun ownership (‘more guns means more crime’)

against a stable social system, how does current day India manage low-to-average crime rates. More than 2000 years ago, Megasthenes a Greek traveller to India wrote,

Theft is of very rare occurrence. Megasthenes says that those who were in the camp of Sandrakottos, wherein lay 400,000 men, found that the thefts reported on any one day did not exceed the value of two hundred drachmae, and this among a people who have no written laws

Historically, trade in India is governed by शुभ लाभ ‘shubh labh’ – and hence Indians have not been major players in drugs proliferation (unlike Japan, the West in which traded Opium in Korea and China) or in slave trade.

In modern times, India is not a big player in spamming or in software virusthough a power in computing industry. In August 2008, a hoax story alleged that an Indian hacker, had broken into a credit card database, and sold it to the European underworld. Some ‘experts’ feared that this would spark of a crime wave across Europe.

The Indic model of justice, crime and law

Evidence of a different Indic system goes far back in history. To Lipit Ishtar, Hittite laws, Hammurabi et al. At least as far back as 4000 years back in history. Indian kings did not deliver justice. It was done at the local level by panchayats पंचायत. Indian justice systems did not rely on imprisonment or executions or the police to control crime!

The answer – the world’s most stable marriage system and the extended family-social structures took care of the wayward.

Still from Breaker Morant - Edward Woodward, 3rd from left, portrayed Harry 'Breaker' Morant

Still from Breaker Morant - Edward Woodward, 3rd from left, portrayed Harry 'Breaker' Morant

A recent Hollywood film on the Desert Bloc system of justice was the schizophrenic Breaker Morant – by Bruce Beresford. In the closing lines of Breaker Morant, when asked about his religion, Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant declares that he is a pagan.

When the execution detail comes to get Morant and Handcock, the military chaplain asks their religious affiliation. “Pagan.” replies Morant. “What’s a pagan?” inquires Handcock. Morant replies, “Well, it’s somebody who doesn’t believe there’s a divine being dispensing justice to mankind.” Handcock nods and says to the chaplain, “I’m a pagan too.” (extract from Wikipedia; accessed on 25th January, 2010).

I have always wondered how much the writer knew – and understood the import of that statement.

Crumbling edifice

In India, under the onslaught of the Desert Bloc, Akbar-Birbal stories, Tenali Ram-Krishna Devaraya were used to create expectations of a Wise King. From then on, the Indic system of justice crumbled at a faster pace.

Is it that Indians were ‘saints’ and did not have private disputes? Were they so civilized that they could solve all disputes by talking to each other? Is it that Indian kings were not bothered about delivery of justice!

By Richard Brust

The Story Of Crime & Prisons

US - world leader in imprisoning people

US - world leader in imprisoning people

A World Of A Difference

USA, with a population of 30 crores (300 million), has a criminal population of 70 lakhs (7 million) – behind bars, on probation or on parole. US Government estimates a figure of 20 lakhs (2 million) people serving prison sentences.

A concerned editorial in New York Times newspaper summed up the situation.

More than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars. One in nine black men, ages 20 to 34, are serving time, as are 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men. Nationwide, the prison population … (of the US) surpasses all other countries for which there are reliable figures. The 50 states last year spent about $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections, up from nearly $11 billion in 1987. Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan and Oregon devote as much money or more to corrections as they do to higher education.

Persuading public officials to adopt a more rational, cost-effective approach to prison policy is a daunting prospect, however, not least because building and running jailhouses has become a major industry.

… the relationship between imprisonment and crime control is murky. States that lagged behind the national average in rising incarceration rates during the 1990’s actually experienced a steeper decline in crime rates than states above the national average … (ellipsis and bracketed text mine).

What goes on here …

The current status of Indian criminal system is a study in contrast. India, with a population of 110 crores (1100 million) has a prison population of 2 lakhs (0.2 million). The Indian National Human Rights Commission gives a figure of 3.5 lakhs as the prison population – including convicts and those who are undergoing trial. The UK Home Office survey of World Prison Population estimates Indian prison population at 2.5 lakhs.

Leader of the free world - leads in imprisonment also

Leader of the free world - leads in imprisonment also

With less than 25 people per 100,000 in prison India has the world’s lowest imprisonment rate. Cynics may snigger at India’s ‘inefficient’ police or the slow court procedures as the cause for this low prison population. That can only mean criminals are at large and India must, therefore have the highest crime rate – which is not true. India has low or average crime rates – based on category.

A police state is the answer …

The other option is if India had a huge police force. But then, India has the lowest police-to-population ratios in the world. Comparative statistics show,

The police-population ratio in India is very poor at 1:728, it was 1:600 as mentioned by the Home Minister in August 2005 to Parliament, with women constables constituting only 2.5 per cent of that number. The all-India average police-population ratio stands at 122 per 100,000, which is much lower than the UN norm of 222 per 100,000 (1:450). Most western countries have ratios between 250 and 500 per 100,000. Russia has a ratio of 1:82 and Australia 1:439. While Pakistan has a ratio of 1:625, Japan and Singapore have 1:563 and 1:295 respectively. Even developing countries like Thailand with 1:228 have a much better ratio than India.

Guns and crime

Gun ownership has been suspected behind the crime rates in the US. But the most recent argument against this theory is the spate of bank robberies – which dilutes this argument – at least partially. Estimates of the national stock of guns in the US varies between 40 million to 50 million households which own 200 million guns.

India is, in many ways, different. Recent estimates show that India is the second largest gun owning population in the world- with 4.6 crores (46 million) guns. One report report states that UP alone has 900,000 licensed fire arm holders and 1,400 arms dealers. Another report estimates more than 3 lakh illegal firearms in New Delhi alone.

The fear of God … and Death …

Capital Punishment

Amnesty International - capital punishment data

The ‘Desert Bloc’ societies are great believers in the death sentence. On the other, year after year, India has had the lowest numbers of death sentences – and executions. For instance, the ‘Grand Debate’ in the US of A, is as schizophrenic as it can get.

A majority of Americans support the idea of capital punishment–although fewer are for it if given a choice of life without parole. At the same time, a substantial number in a recent poll said they could not serve on a death-penalty jury. Our death penalty’s continued existence, countering the trend of the rest of the developed world, expresses our revulsion to violent crime and our belief in personal accountability. (from Death Penalty Walking By David Von Drehle Thursday, Jan. 03, 2008 from TIME magazine)

The Amnesty International website reports,

In 2008, at least 2,390 people were known to have been executed in 25 countries and at least 8,864 people were sentenced to death in 52 countries around the world.

As in previous years, the five countries with the highest number of executions in 2008 were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States of America (Fig. 1). Together these five countries carried out 93 per cent of all executions carried out in 2008.

The spectre of Muslim gunsmiths

Muslims gunsmiths dominate this business – as can be seen from these reports. But the Indian Muslim, has like the rest of the country, not used these firearms dangerously. This is a strong argument against the ‘oppression of the Muslim in India’ argument.

How long would it take to create a religious jihadi militia? That too, at such a low cost.

But what is the question …

Which brings us back to the central question? Is there a causal link between gun ownership and crime? Are these directly related and proportionate?

All the 5 indices (below) create a bias for a lawless Indian society and rampant crime. With these five indices, namely: –

  1. Police to population ratio (‘increase police force’).
  2. Prison population (‘put more criminals behind bars’)
  3. Capital punishment (‘kill enough criminals to instill fear’)
  4. Poverty (‘it is poverty which the root of all crime’)
  5. Gun ownership (‘more guns means more crime’)

against a stable social system, how does India manage low-to-average crime rates.

How can India have such a low prison population, with a poor police-to-population ratio and a crime rate which is not above the average – in spite of a large civilian gun population. The answer goes back to Lipit Ishtar, Hittite laws, Hammurabi et al – 4000 years back in history.

Indian ethical system

More than 2000 years ago, Megasthenes a Greek traveller to India wrote,

Theft is of very rare occurrence. Megasthenes says that those who were in the camp of Sandrakottos, wherein lay 400,000 men, found that the thefts reported on any one day did not exceed the value of two hundred drachmae, and this among a people who have no written laws

Historically, trade in India is governed by शुभ लाभ shubh labh’ – and hence Indians have not been major players in drugs proliferation (unlike Japan, the West in which traded Opium in Korea and China) or in slave trade.

In modern times, though India is a power in computing industry, India is not a big player in spamming or in software virus. In August 2008, there was hoax story, which alleged that an Indian hacker, had broken into a credit card database – and sold to the European underworld – and some ‘experts’ feared that this would spark of a crime wave across Europe.

The Roots Of ‘Modern Law’

The story of crime and prison population gets more interesting after looking at history and tradition of India and the “Desert Bloc.” The ‘Desert religions’ derive their legal inspiration from the Hammurabic Law of 3000 years.

Babylonian laws had a fundamental impact on legal phraseology in the Bible and the classical world including early Rome. They followed the pattern of formulation that Hammurabi and other Mesopotamian lawgivers used, with a case by case listing of standard clauses. Thus the Babylonian laws show parallels with bases of the European tradition of legal thought, and may have inspired them. Yet Hammurabi’s name was not attached to the laws; the Biblical, Classical, and the Islamic traditions did not remember him, and he was fully forgotten. The situation was only reversed when Europeans, in the mid-nineteenth century AD, started the archaeological exploration of the Middle East and deciphered the cuneiform scripts. By accident, Hammurabi’s name appeared among the earliest inscriptions found. (from King Hammurabi of Babylon By Marc Van de Mieroop)

Sons Of 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.” Of course, the modern state of Israel follows the system of two eyes and all your teeth, if you hurt my one eye.

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 – even in the face of an alternative data set.

The first followers in the last 3000 years, were the Greeks. With fresh slaves, bought with newly discovered gold, the Greeks took their first few steps in defining a legal systems. Draco started the Greek legal code which set standards in severity and repression – death for stealing an apple or a cabbage. Those convicted of idleness were condemned to death. Plutarch reports that one contemporary reported that Draco’s laws “were written not in ink, but blood.” It took Solon, widely travelled in Asia, where Hittite’s liberal laws were still in force, to relax Greek laws.

Romans continued with these legal practices and termed this legal concept as lex talionis. The Old Testament advocated “an eye for an eye” (Hebrew: עין תחת עין; Exodus 21:23-27). Islam set up the system of Shariat laws on the same pattern.

But not in Indic nations. 4000 years after the Hittites, Gandhiji was asked about the Hammurabi’s “eye for an eye” kind of justice. Like the Hittites, Gandhiji rejected Hammurabi’s legal constructs. His famous position was “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.

Results & ConsequencesSiege Mentality

These laws created a system of revenge, fueds and vendettas. The result – fractured Europe, a rampant history of genocide, fueding Middle East.

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. USA also has one of the highest crime rates in the world.

Is there a causal link between the Hammurabic legal systems and the crime it seems to engender.

Massacre & Slavery

Hammurabic legal systems also 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.

Western history is replete with examples of blood thirsty conquerors whose achievements were measured by territorial conquest, loot and slave capture.

The Indic Legal SystemBuddha And Angulimaal

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. These tablets and seals reveal the legal minds of the Hittites. Vastly, different from Hammurabic laws, Hittite law, 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, who dominated Asia from Indian borders to Europe, till 500 BC. Kassites, the other major ruling clan in Levant’s geography (apart from the Egyptians) heavily adopted Indo Aryan cultural motifs.

The Indic (Hittite) legal revolution 4000 years ago plays out even today.

The Indic Bloc rejects Hammurabi

The earliest legend on justice in India is Silappathikaram (Tamil: சிலப்பதிகாரம்). Written by Ilango Adigal /Elangovadigal, supposed brother of Cheran Senguttavan. In the famous play, Silappadhikaaram, (also Silappatikaram) was about miscarriage of justice. The protagonist in the play is King Neduncheziyan.

Neduncheziyan is famous (in Tamil literature) as the fabled, erring Pandyan King in the Tamil classic – Silappadhikaaram. Neduncheziyan’s mistaken justice, brings him grief – and finally death. This classic, written by Jain saint, Ilango Adigal /Elangovadigal, Neduncheziyan in the Tamil classic, is overshadowed by the other real King, Cheran Senguttuvan – whose brother is Ilangoadigal.

And who is Neduncheziyan?

Replace ‘d’ with ‘b’ and you are with Nebuchadnezzar – famous as Babylonian Kings. With a name very close to the Tamil name of Neduncheziyan (Nedunchedianuru) – a current and modern Tamil name. And Nebuchadnezzars were successors of of Hammurabi. Who also waged war against the Elam kingdom, (ca1764).

There are at least four – but we are interested in two of them. The first was Nebuchadnezzar I (ca1126-ca1105) who invaded Elam (the Dravidian rulers of modern Iran). But it was Nebuchadnezzar II, who commissioned one of the wonders of the ancient world – The Hanging Gardens of Babylon – for Amytis, his homesick Elamite princess. Amytis, the daughter of the Median King, (a neo Elamite King), longed for the greenery of her homeland.

A prominent ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar-II, 605-562 BC, (as spelt in English) not only married an Elamite princess, but also took on an Elamite name (related to the Dravidian languages).

Nebuchadnezzar III (Niditu-bel), who rebelled against Darius I of Persia in 522 BC and Nebuchadnezzar IV (Arakha), who rebelled against Darius I of Persia in 521 BC are the other two.

Gautama Buddha won his spurs after converting daaku “Angulimal.” Daaku Angulimal was a notorious criminal – who severed thumbs of his victims, as mementoes from many murders. During his encounter with Buddha, the Daaku was left standing and powerless – only to give up his ways.

Gandhiji and the Calcutta Riots

Commandent of Moradabad, Lt. Col. Coke, wrote in 1822:

“Our endeavour should be to uphold in full force the (for us fortunate) separation which exists between the different religions and races, not to endeavor to amalgamate them. Divide et Impera should be the principle of Indian government.”

The Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909 paved the way for communalization of India. From 1910-1940, the British vigorously implemented the ‘divide and rule’ policy. At the time of 1947 partition, organized gangs started communal riots. Kolkatta (then Calcutta) was in flames. More than 4000 people died. The British Raj was a mute bystander. In contrast, areas ruled by the ‘decadent’ and ‘feudal’ Indian maharajahs, did not see such a magnitude of communal riots.Gandhiji In Calcutta Riots

Cut to Gandhiji during the Calcutta riots. Gandhiji met Hindu and Muslim leaders (and gangsters). Riots ceased. The effect of this came to be known as the Calcutta Miracle. After bloody riots, people came forward to lay down arms. Gandhiji, in an encounter with a sobbing rioteer who confesses to killing a Muslim child – in a revenge killing. Gandhiji suggested that as repentance, the rioter adopt and raise a Muslim orphan child.

The Age Of Dacoits

Dacoity is a uniquely Indian-English word – made, formed and used in India. Derived from the Hindi word daaku, Dacoits were (and are) outlaws operating at the periphery of legitimacy – and morality. These brigands were a response to the shrinking opportunity base due to colonial practices (some of which continue) in India. These dacoits typically did not usually target the State itself or the poor.

Vinod Khanna In Mera Gaon Mera DeshMany successful films were made revolving around these dacoits. Sunil Dutt built his career around dacoit films like ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’ and ‘Praan Jaye Par Vachana Na Jaye’. ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’, a pioneering dacoit film, made Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna into super stars. ‘Sholay’, an all time big hit centered around a dacoit running amok – with a powerless State.

The target of the dacoits were the beneficiaries of the system – the rich. Since, the dacoits did not directly challenge the might of the State, the state was not very worried about these dacoits. But loot, these dacoits did. Especially the rich. In the 1960-1970s, dacoity had acquired fearsome proportions. Large swathes of some Indian states were beyond the pale of law – and authority.

Jayaprakash Narayan And Sampoorna Kranti

Post-colonial India was gradually reconstructing its economy. The building blocks of a competitive economy were being put in place. Shortages, inflation were endemic. In such an atmosphere, dacoits started acquiring overtones as a sign of a ‘failing’ Indian state.Jayaprkash Narayan

One man stepped forward and made these daakus see sense. In April 1972, 500 of these dacoits surrendered to the State. These murderous dacoits surrendered at the appeal of a man who never held any office of power (or pelf). Jayaprakash Narayan was the man, at whose behest these Chambal daakus surrendered. Some of these dacoits became members of the Indian Parliament. Jayaprakash Narayan, who at one time, was seen as second only to Nehru, gave up electoral politics in 1954 and worked on the Bhoodan movement with Acharya Vinoba Bhave.

Criminals In The Indian Parliament

For the last 10 years, more than 20% of the elected representatives in national and state parliaments had criminal charges pending against them. In some cases, the charges were petty and manufactured by political rivals. Reality is, that there are criminals in Indian Parliaments. Some criminals like Shahabuddin were, of course, less elected and more manipulated into the Parliament.

Typically, India baiters revel in this and Indians are concerned about this. But, not The Indian Voter. He is unwilling to demonize candidates with a criminal record. The Indian Voter seems to definitely ambivalent about the criminal record of some of the candidates.Marooned Mumbai

Interestingly, (and importantly) how does the Indian Criminal respond to this ambivalence and ‘softness’ – one can even call it an act of faith?

Mumbai -July 26th 2005

944 mm of rains in a matter of 4 hours. It was the single largest downpour in the last 100 years of weather records in the world – over an urban agglomeration. No city in recorded history has received so much rain.

Mumbai was paralysed. Communications lines went down. Electricity black outs engulfed parts of the city. On the arterial road across the Mumbai (the Western Express Highway), thousands of cars were marooned and abandoned by owners. Of these hundreds were BMWs, Mercedes-Benz, Honda Accents, SUVs like Pajeros, Landcruisers – abandoned on the roads. It took the city 4 days to recover. For three days, Mumbai was at standstill.

SWAT team drives past Convention Center, New Orleans.Criminals, technically, had a free run of the city. Much like New Orleans after Katrina. Vandalism, rape, pilferage could have easily happened.

Just the wipers, door handles, car tyres, headlights, car stereos from these high end cars would have yielded around Rs.25,000-Rs.50,000 (US$600-US$1200) per car in the ‘grey market’ – attractive targets for criminals during these 3 days.

How many of these cars were, finally, vandalized? None. No such incident was (at least) reported. Unlike New Orleans and Katrina where the National Guard had to be called out. How many women were raped?

None reported – but spontaneously, many Mumbaikars set up free tea stalls for the stranded. Strangers sheltered stranded people at their homes. Of course, there have been posts that Katrina reports were exaggerated and unsubstantiated.

https://i0.wp.com/farm1.static.flickr.com/48/113413705_0236c9dea0.jpgCriminal As A Human

It is this non-vindictive treatment of the criminal through myth and example, in ancient and modern time that has differentiated exercize of authority in India and handling of the criminal. It is this treatment that makes India and the Indian criminal different.

Modern econometric modelling has an interesting perspective on Indian economy where research shows that for much of the last 1000 years, India has been a significant economic power till the 1900. China and India, this analysis estimates, for the last 1000 years, accounted for 50% of the world economy. Statistical analyses showed India with a world trade share of 25% for much of the 500 years during 1400-1900.

With this prosperity, the most interesting (historical) aspect of the criminal management story is the absence of any surviving mass jails in India prior to colonial India. Just how did pre-colonial India, one of the largest (and most prosperous) populations of the world, deal with crime and criminals?

Marooned Mumbai

Burn Your Old History Books – Emerging New History

Posted in European History, Gold Reserves, History, India, politics, Religion by Anuraag Sanghi on March 5, 2008

Nag Hammadi Scripts

December, 1945. Nag Hammadi

WW2 was over. Victors were busy, sharing the spoils. Colonies were awaiting release. Feudal systems were wearing thin at the cuffs.

In Upper Egypt, a farmer, Mohammed Ali Samman while digging for sabakh’ (kind of guano, bird droppings used as natural fertiliser), near Nag Hammadi, discovered an earthen jar. Overcoming his initial fears of breaking open the jar (it may well contain djinns), he found some books! Disappointed with his ‘find’, he dumped this in his house along with firewood and straw. His mother used some of the books and pages to start the fire.

20 years later after passing through many hands, it was found that these were the same books that the Catholic Church has been, allegedly, trying to suppress for 1500 years. Only 3 more copies of this book existed in the world.

Till the Nag Hammadi finding, there were three surviving copies of the Gnostic book, The Pistis Sophia – the Askew Codex (in the British Museum), The Berlin (or Akhmim) Kodex (acquired in Cairo, Egypt) and the Bruce Codex (bought in Thebes, Upper Egypt, by Lord James Bruce) donated to the Bodlein Library.

The Dead Sea ScrollsDead Sear Scroll Jar

Two years later, in 1947, at Wadi Qumran, near the Dead Sea, then in Jordan, now in Israel, a Bedouin shepherd boy was finding himself short of his goats. He set out in search of his goats and wandered into nearby caves.

In these dark caves, he made a discovery that shook the Christian world. He found earthen jars containing ancient scrolls written in papyrus, animal skin and copper plates also. Over the next 9 years, more than 900 such documents were recovered from 11 nearby caves. The Jordanian authorities handed it over to a team of (mostly) Catholic priests. For 40 years, this team did not release much information. International uproar about the slow progress and the role of the Catholic Church (re. suppression of these documents for more than 40 years) finally forced the teams to open up the documents.

West Asia

Between 1850-1900, Western archaeologists dug up more than 400,000 clay tablets in West Asia. This loot was carried back to the British Museum, Louvre France, Imperial Museum in Berlin, University Of Pennsylvania. Latter day digs and finds were retained in Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. In the last 100 years, of the more than 400,000 clay tablets excavated, less than a 70,000 have been deciphered between the four institutions. Less than one fifth have been published so far.


The Elamite capital is called by Western archaeologists as Susa – but correctly is Shushan (was it so called because it was the seat of of शासन shaasan’, the Sanskritic word for governance). It was initially populated by an aboriginal tribe called ‘uwaja’ (did the Elamites call them पूरवजpurvaja’ – Sanskritic for ancestors) and some other Greek sources called them Uxii.Bas relief From Susan

Alfredo Trombetti, an Italian Elamologist, was an Italian linguist who theorised that all the languages in the world evolved from one language – monogenesis of language, his theory is called. In his book, Elementi Di Glottologia, he worked backwards to North India as the source of all languages. Trombetti learned French, German, Greek, Hebrew and Latin by himself. He spoke these languages when he was 14 years old. In the colonial era, where Britain was the single super cpower, such credit given to India was not welcome.

Archibald Henry Sayce’s essays dealing with Elamite: ‘Amardian or Protomedic Tablets in the British Museum’ settled the initial direction for interpretation for Elamite studies.

Indic Connections

Hittites were one of the main branches of Indics in the region. Ramesis II is about 100 years after Akhenaten – (एकनाथन Eknathan meaning One God in Sanskrit). Akhenaten’s father is AmenhotepIII who wanted to marry the Mittani (another Indic kingdom) princess of Dashratta (Tushrutta). The Indic influence and presence is overwhelming in the Levant at this time. E.g. Instead of building mausoleums, Akhenaten built temples – much like other Indian kings (seen after 10th century AD).

After this there is a slow fadeout and decrease of the Indic rule in the Middle East. The Achmenaid Persians take-over from Elamites (The Indic Dravidians who settled Persia). Egypt became a Roman colony – and turned westward. Judaism began to grow.

Why this change?

Slavery Continues

West Asian reluctance to give up slavery, made Indo Aryan rulers disengage politically from West Asia and Middle East. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the three ‘desert religions’, gained their first converts from slaves, but continued with slavery till the 20th century.Hittite Musicians

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. Non-political Indian role in West Asia and Middle East continued to grow in terms of trade and learning. Babylon became a part of Alexander’s empire (and then the Roman Empire).

The slave revolt of Egypt by Moses, made the Indic rulers reform and distance themselves from the slave owning societies. Hence the fade out of the Indic rule from the Middle East – but the continuation of Buddhist influences, trade and peoples contact.

This slave reform and distancing of Indic rulers from slave societies was led by Indian reformers like Buddha and Mahavira. This happened not around and after 500 BC as determined by Western dating logic (which needed to fit the Aryan Invasion Theory, The ‘evolution’ of Greek and Romans) – but around 1000 BC.

Reformist Rulers & Inherited Systems

In the extended India, slavery was an inherited social system – for which the Hittites made some liberal laws. The inherited norm of slavery was sought to be liberalised, in incremental manner by the Indic societies of the Middle East.Slavery In Egypt

This incremental liberalisation created a backlash against the ‘holier-than-thou’ Indians, by the slave-owning, ruling classes of the non-Indic societies – and the newly liberated classes also. The ancient equivalent of Nixon’s outbursts against the ‘sanctimonious Indians.’ It was this humane treatment of slaves and humanization of criminals which has possibly resulted in a the low crime rates in India.

Who were blamed

Possibly, the Indic reformers. The liberated blame the liberator. Much like Gandhiji was killed by a Hindu.

I can hear people screaming, ‘Who asked you to give such fancy ideas like dignity, freedom to these slaves. Look now what has happened”. And when the unemployed, hungry slaves were turned back by their bankrupt masters, the slaves must have said, “You have created these rifts. All that we asked for was a little less of work and a little more of comfort. We don’t want this freedom. Can we eat freedom!”

Anti-Babylon tirades in in the Judeo-Christian tradition were a direct result of this anti-slavery attitude of the Indics in the Middle East. Moses and Semitic followers freed themselves – and enslaved others. Possibly, the Indics in Babylon did not approve of such practices – and hence the anti-Babylon tirades.

The Moses Connection

This liberalisation triggered a (vengeful) Moses to walk out of Egypt and formed Judaism – a monotheistic religion. The (suspected) Pharaoh at that time was Ramesis-II roughly between 1300-1200 BC. This is also when the Battle of Kadesh happened with the Hittites, which resulted in the most famous treaty.

The cause of this battle was the defection of King Benteshina of the Amurru (is the correct name Bente = वंश vansha in Sanskrit and shin = moon goddess; meaning Chandravanshi?). The Amurru, (also known as Amorites) possibly switched sides from being an Egyptian vassal, to a Hittite ally. Were Amurrus, the Mauryas who later defeated the Seleucid army?

Military paradigm changes

As the political disengagement progressed, the Indic rulers also changed the military paradigm. Buddhist texts talk about 16 mahajanapadas – which formed this ruling federation.

The foremost administrative innovation was the concept of Bharata(ah) – the aryavart and the arya dhwaj. Comprising of 16 to 30 mahajanapadas, Bharata(ah) became a federation of kingdoms. Each of these kingdoms became a series of succeeding lines of defence against invading armies. What the European Union is grappling with, (and may yet fail) for the last 300 years, was implemented and used 3000 years ago in India.

Six other important changes were seen.

One war chariots became less important. By the time of Alexander’s march in India, chariots were a minor part of the Indian armies. Instead, the importance of cavalry increased. Bessos, the Bactrian mathista, designated to succeed Darius III, led the successful Indic cavalry charge, at Gaugamela, on the Macedonian right flank – which forced Alexander to focus on the centre of the Persian army, led by Darius III.

When Alexander finally was able to make his way to India, he met a fierce onslaught of the Indian cavalry units – supported by fearsome elephants. Indian cavalry units were always smaller than in other nations due to paucity of horses in India. India was a traditional importer of horses. For combat use, Indian cavalry used imported horses and Indian breeds (like the marwari breed) were smaller – easily trained and more intelligent, but smaller and less stamina, were used as as pack animals .

Two – a system of alliances supporting frontline kingdoms in the entire North West Indian swath was formulated. For instance, against the Assyrian invasion, led by Semiramis, a minor Indian king, Stabrobates, was supported to beat back the Assyrian invasion. Against Cyrus the Great, Tomyris, a Scythian Queen was supported to massacre the Persian invaders. Alexander’s nightmare began immediately, as soon as he crossed into the Indic area.

Instead of the complete collaboration that Alexander got from the defeated Achmaenid ruling family of Sisygambis, Stateira, Oxathres (brother of Darius III; also written as oxoathres and oxyathres) et al, the foursome of Bessos, Spitamenes, Datafernes and the Scythians made Alexander’s life miserable. At Gaugamela, it was Bessos and his cavalry which broke Alexander’s formation.

The tribes and kshatrapas (satraps) of Indian North West swath, delayed Alexander for nearly three years – before he could step into India. In India, Alexander had to pay the King of Taxiles, Omphis, (Ambi) 1000 talents of gold (more than 25 tons of gold) – to secure an alliance. He had to return the kingdom of Punjab to Porus – purportedly, after winning the battle. His loot and pickings from India were negligible. Thus while, invaders were kept at bay, within the Indic area, borders and crowns kept changing and shifting.

Three – the biggest game changer were the elephant corps. War elephants was an Indian invention and an Indian monopoly. After the defeat and death of Cyrus The Great at the hands of Tomyris, the Persians stopped looking India-wards. 500 years later (nearly), with the help of the Indian elephant corps, the Sassanians stopped the Romans at Persian borders.

With these three changes, Indian heartland became invincible. Empire builders like the Assyrian Queen, Semiramis and the Achmaenian Emperor, Cyrus the Great mounted expensive campaigns to conquer India – and barely escaped with their lives. Later, Genghis Khan’s armies  avoided India completely. Timurlane could invade India – when Delhi was under rule by a foreign dynasty, the Tughlaks. Indian invincibility and military prowess was unmatched for till the 13th century – when the first foreign rulers, the Slave Dynasty rulers from the Levant started ruling from Delhi – Qutubuddin Aibak, in 1206.

Four – Indian teachers and intellectuals were sent to all corners of the world. The spread of Buddhism in Asia is well chronicled. Socrates’ encounter with an Indian yogi however, is not so well known. Mani, the Buddhist teacher was feared by the Vatican for the next 1000 years. Vatican killed, burnt and quartered all those who displayed any leaning towards Manicheanism. Islamic invaders searched and destroyed statues or ‘boet’ (meaning statues of Buddha?).

Five – the legal and political structures were popularized. The usage of gold was popularized  and became widespread as an economic tool. Coinage in India was not a royal prerogative or   implemented by fiat. Thus, for instance, there were intricate Greco-Bactrian coins, (probably privately minted) compared to crude and simple Indic official coins. Sanskritic and Darvidian systems were used to structure ancient languages like Akkadian and Elamite. Slavery in Asia went into remission till the rise of Islam. Religious persecution became a random occurrence. Asian economy accounted for between 50%-80% of world economic output.

Alexander’s takeover of the Assyrio-Persian empire in Asia was largely reversed. The spread of the Roman Empire, built on slavery and loot, was halted at West Asia. The Sassanian Dynasty with its elephant corps, the  Zend-hapet, or “Commander of the Indians,” blockaded the Asian continent from Western invaders – which stabilized Asiatic societies. Initially, the Sassanian dynasty was able to wrest back and later defend the Persian dominions from the Greco-Romans rulers after setting up an Indian elephants corps in their army – evidenced, for instance, by the carvings at Taq-i-Bustan. At one time, the Sassanian rulers had increased its elephant corps to 12,000 elephants.

Sixth – Technologically, the Indian invention of Wootz steel, was another game changer. Wootz steel, which was an Indian monopoly from 500 BC till nearly 1900 AD, was the best steel for swords, lances, spears – for defence products. Wootz steel, was the preferred input in the world, for swords, pistols and such. Known as Damascus steel, it went into Japanese Katanas, European guns. The famed Damascus steel swords, armour and pistols, used steel ingots imported from India as Wootz steel. Indian exports of Wootz was a big earner for India till British efforts killed this industry in India. Subsequent efforts to “reverse engineer” this technology in Europe during the 20th century, has been unsuccessful. Damascus was the trading centre over which the Battle of Kadesh, the biggest chariot battle, was fought between the Indo-Aryan Hittites and the Egyptian Pharoah Ramesses-II fought.

Moses & Christ

Christ – a more forgiving man than the vengeful Moses, came in a little later. His life as a young man has been obscured. Till 400 AD, Buddhism was blanking out Christianity. Constantine’s Council of Nice, the subsequent State patronage and force of Church oppression thereafter ensured the survival and growth of Christianity.

Mani – Linking Buddhism to Christ

Mani, a Buddhist preacher who also talked of Christ as a major reform teacher was seen as a major threat by the Church from 250 AD to till about 1500 AD.

Buddhism had already spread to Sri Lanka, India and Afghanistan – making waves. The Church was having a uphill time in gaining believers from new religions – like Buddhism, and Mani, a Persian Buddhist teacher trained in India. The Manichean religion was an eclectic mix of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Mithraism. It appealed to significant sections of the population, as it showed continuity from earlier faiths. It recognised earlier prophets and teachers like Buddha and Jesus – and Mani as the last teacher in this line of prophets.

Christian writers (Hippolytus and Epiphanius) write about Scythianus, who visited India around 50AD from where he brought ideas about Apokatastasis (re-birth) – “the doctrine of the Two Principles”. Scythianus’ pupil Terebinthus (Tere – Lord + binthu = Hindu; Hindu Lord) called himself as a “Buddha” (“Buddas”), as mentioned in writings of Cyril of Jerusalem). Terebinthus went to Palestine and Judaea where he met the Apostles “becoming known and condemned”, and ultimately settled in Babylon, where he transmitted his teachings to Mani.

This religion spread far – from Europe to China. In China, this was integrated with Buddhist beliefs (Taisho Tripitaka). In Afghanistan, Iran it was Aiyn-e-Mani. In Europe it became Manichean. This posed a challenge to the Church. The response of the Church – wipe the very thought of a different belief.

Simply put, this religion posited that there is an eternal struggle between Good and Evil. Men should protect themselves against evil (the Roman Church feared that this may lead to Devil worship) and lead a life of virtue. The Vatican Church believed that there was God and he did not create evil.

Women (Eve) did. This was the Original Sin. All mankind are sinners now and need to pray to God (and Jesus was his son and sent to Earth to save mankind) and redeem ourselves. St.Augustine was canonised for his conversion from Manichean to Christianity.

Pistis Sophia, Gnostics & Buddhism

Pistis Sophia (surviving as Bruce Codex, Berlin-Akhmim Codex and Askew Codex) were suppressed by Britain and Germany for decades. Rediscovered as Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hamamdi manuscripts, research has been slowed to a crawl. The question now is no more ‘did Buddhism influence Christianity’ but ‘how much did Buddhism influence Christianity’. Do these manuscripts show a greater extent of Buddhism than colonial Britain, supremist Germany and the Vatican would like to admit?

Slavery In India

Slavery in India, disappeared from about 1000 BC. Zilch. Nyet. Non. Nada, nada. Unlike in the rest of the world, no records, ever, have been found of human trafficking in the Indic bloc. Indian pauranik and classical history begins to make sense only after the concept of ‘asuras’ as a verbal cue for slavery, slave masters and slave traders is used. Sanskrit and Indic languages have no word for ‘slave’. In modern times, India’s rise as a power in computing industry, is also partly due to the same logical structure of Sanskrit language.

While the Levant and the Occident continued with slavery for the next 3000 years, till 1900 AD, in India (referring to the Greater India, including the Hittites and Mitannis) after 1100 BC, slavery vanished. Compared to the retributive and vengeful Hammurabi’s code, the Indic rulers of Middle East (the Hittites, Mittanis and Elamites) already had a more liberal and humane legal system.

Kung-fu stances

Kung-fu stances

Enter The Ahimsa Twins

Buddha and Mahavira come in.

Western historian dates are slotted for 500 BC for the ahimsa ‘twins’. What if the Buddha and Mahavira are from the 1000 BC – and led the reform against slavery. This also ties in with the historic (and unique) movement of Indian diet towards an increase in vegetarian component.

Indic rejection of slavery, led to their disengagement from the Middle East, where other cultures, continued with slavery. From dominance, Indians became satisfied with presence and influence. Capture by slave traders and slavery was also the reason, that possibly, Indian traders preferred buyers to come to them. This also accounts for the system of unarmed combat that travelled with Buddhist monks to China – and became Chinese Kung Fu, or the Kalaripayattu (in Kerala) or the system of लठैद (combat practitioners using ‘lathis’ – bamboo sticks).

The Ahimsa Appeal

The exhortation towards ‘ahimsa’ is an appeal to the ‘oppressors’ to stop ‘himsa’ against all life – and similarly for the oppressed to resolve the social issues by ‘ahimsa.’ There is of course, some merit in taking some issues like oppression at a general level, as a matter of principal – and not to get bogged down in specifics.

Do keep in mind that Elamites, (cousins of modern Dravidians) founded Persia; the Middle East was influenced and had significant presence of Indic Mittanis and Hittites – and India was far bigger than what we see today.Buddha

Slave Memory In Indian Society

Slave memory faded out and there are only some stray references in Indian classical literature about slavery – like the Harishchandra story. The understanding of the word ‘asura’ changed – and foreign words like ‘ghulam’ made their way into Indic languages.

Jataka stories (mainly considered as children’s stories in the West) are a reflection of social mores, realities- and also cautionary tales for adults. This Jataka story (click on the link) refers to a “demon’ (another word for a slave trader) and cautions travellers and merchants about slave traders. This ‘demon’ kidnaps the merchant – but leaves the goods behind. Similarly, the story of Bali, the righteous Asura king, who was sent to the patalaloka, by Vamana, makes sense, the moment ‘demons’ are defined as slave-owners and enslavers.

Historically, trade in India is governed by शुभ लाभ ‘shubh labh’ – and hence Indians have not been major players in drugs proliferation (unlike Japan, the West in which traded Opium in Korea and China) or in slave trade.

In modern times, though India is a power in computing industry, India is not a big player in spamming or in software virus. In August 2008, there was hoax story, which alleged that an Indian hacker, had broken into a credit card database – and sold to the European underworld – and some ‘experts’ feared that this would spark of a crime wave across Europe.

The Greek Dark Age

Around the 1000 BC inflection point, there is another interesting thing that happened – the so called Greek Dark Age. From 1200 BC to 900 BC – when the Indic kingdoms, like Hittites, the Mittanis and Elamites were dis-engaging from the Levant, the Greeks went through ‘a catastrophe’. Egypt and Mesopotamia were threatened. Two Mycenaen cities, 40 other cities of Turkey, Syria and Middle East were destroyed.

The Greek Miracle assisted by the revival of trade links with India through the Phoenicians in 900 BC. And the Greek city states who were the recipients of the slaves from the Anatolia. These new found slaves from the Middle East spurred the ‘Greek Miracle’.

And who were the Phoenicians? Some suggest that the word ‘phoenia’ is corruption of ‘bania’ – and these were the South Indian sea-traders, with ships made in Masulipatnam and Sopara.

Plague, Locusts, Disease

So what was behind the the Indian disengagement from West Asia, the Greek Dark Age and the fall of the XVIIIth dynasty of Egypt.

Moses and Judaism, slavery, revolt of the slaves is my hypotheses. With the walkout by slaves, cities became dirty, plague broke out, agriculture suffered and locusts descended. With malnutrition, hunger and deprivation, came diseases.The newly liberated slaves fled to Greece – on Phoenician ships, where they were enslaved again.

And who went to town claiming credit for mishaps in Egypt? Moses, proclaiming the power of his God.

Vegetarianism & Cows

This outbreak of war between the slave owners, led to reform in Indian diet. Increased vegetarianism in India. India diets (there are vast regional and ethnic variations) has the lowest ‘meat’ content in the world. The sheer dominance of non-meat items in the normal Indian diet is unique in the world.

This also made the cow ‘holy’ – as the cow saved Indians during this difficult times. The Indian cow is incredibly easy to maintain. The Indian zebu cow yields nutritious milk, butter, ghee, eats anything, is resistant to diseases, has a long life (15-20 years), short gestation period, bull calves can be used as ‘draft’ animals, cow-dung can be used for fuel – and, of course, cow skin makes the best leather.

What Did This Do In India

At least 3000 years ago, India went ahead and created a new economic model without slavery. The Occident and the Levant were using slaves till 20th century. Middle East’s labour laws even today smack of slave owner mentality.

It was these events in 1000 BC which made two things happen.

It catalysed the refinement and consolidation of Sanskrit, the Vedas, The Ramayana, The Mahabharata et al. And it led to many reform leaders, the Bodhisatvas and Tirthankaras – prime amongst whom were Buddha and Mahavira, who counselled patience, introspection, ahimsa to their followers.

In modern times, the easiest test of oppression is ‘statistically significant’ population decline. And there has been no population decline in India to even talk about ‘oppression’ in the genocidal meaning that the West tries equating with India – to cover up their own genocides.

Dates and Periodization

Of course, Western historians (and its followers) will throw the problem of dates at this hypothesis. Buddha and Mahavira were periodized circa 500 BC by Western historians; to ensure that the Greeks got all the credit and that the Aryan invasion theory became feasible. A relook at the dates will support this hypotheses.

The other aspect is that even if Buddha and Mahavira are correctly dated, the role of Tirthankaras and Bodhisatvas (highly regarded by Gautama Buddha and Mahavira) cannot be diminished in the reform story.

Anton Fuhrer – Fixer Of Dates & Places

The gentleman who is supposed to have ‘fixed’ Gautama Buddha’s birthplace, date and time was a certain Dr.Alois Anton Fuhrer. This gentleman was subsequently accused of having tampered with archaeological artifacts – and the Lumbini artifacts etc.

Call it reform or evolution. Slavery was clearly an inherited institution in some part of the great Indic spread.

The Great Unease

Posted in Current Affairs, European History, Feminist Issues, History, India, language, Media, politics, Religion by Anuraag Sanghi on February 26, 2008
From the 1954 - 2010 - Indians are the most optimistic

From the 1954 - 2010 - Indians are the most optimistic. Cartoon by RK Laxman, Times of India.

The Great Unease

Global consumer optimism surveys routinely show anxiety, unease, dread in Europe and USA. This sense of unease should be absent considering the prosperity levels, the best health-care systems, a welfare state, guaranteed unemployment benefits, their technology, their currency and their democracy.

The Indians and Chinese routinely are more optimistic – which should not happen considering the low income levels. Fancy theory apart, to my mind, it is the ‘sword fatigue’ in response to constant exposure by Western Governments (to which they are exposed) which causes this low optimism.

Medieval – Renaissance Europe

16th century Europe – specifically, Spain and Portugal. The last of the Moors had been driven out of Spain. The Christian standard was flying high. The Papal Bull divided the Earth (for the Europeans) between Spain and Portugal. White Christian rulers of Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand, set historic standards in persecution and extortion. More than a million Jews were killed, crucified, burnt alive; their properties confiscated and distributed. Columbus returned to enslave the American Natives – and subsequently, work them to death.

New chapters in bloodshed were being written by conquistadors like Vasco Nunez De Balboa, Francisco Pizarro, Juan Ponce de Leon, Hernando de Soto, Hernando Cortez, et al. Not to forget the search for El Dorado led by, “above all, that prince of monsters Lope de Aquirre, colour the pages with the darkest hues of bloody emprise.” In South American memory, Francisco de Carvajal, the “demon of the Andes” remains alive. These real-life monsters set new standards in brutality, slavery and genocide.

Europe in the sixteenth century was “obsessed with questions of language, and especially so in Spain and its recently conquered American Empire“ (emphasis mine). This was driven by

what Marshal McLuhan called “the hypertrophy of the unconscious,” a phenomenon he associated with periods of revolution in media technology: the advent of print in the 16th century created a great need for sensational materials to be broadcast, and this need caused ideas that formerly had been only lurking in the dark recesses of men’s minds to come floating to the surface.

One of the great bestsellers of the 16th century was the Histoires prodigieuses of Pierre Boaistuau (Paris, 1560), a sort of Renaissance Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not containing marvelous tales on everything … Seventeen of the Histoires forty tales are about monsters, a fact that may explain why the book was republished anywhere from ten to twenty two times and translated into Dutch, Spanish and English. (from Popular culture in the Middle Ages By Josie P. Campbell).

Spanish literature of the Renaissance

From this hotbed of ferment, a representative of this period was Calderon de la Barca (1600-1681), the Spanish writer. Growing up in a Spain, a 100 years after the Conquistadors, benefiting from the twin advantages of fresh memory and hindsight “a century of Janus, facing backward, towards the rise of the Spanish Empire … and forward, toward its decline.” His more than a 100 plays and writings represent significantly, 17th century Spain – and even Europe.

There is probably no word that is more characteristic of Calderon de la Barca’s art than monstruo, “monster.” Rare is the play in which the word does not appear several times … (from Celestina’s brood By Roberto González Echevarría).

Calderon’s play about Semiramis, the Assyrian Empire builder, showed her in a monster mode – her hybrid character the most masculine modes and the most feminine, a monster of destruction and creation”. And Calderon was not alone. The fertile growth of monsters gave birth to a new study – teratology, the study of monsters.

“Monster lore truly becomes “popular culture” only with the Renaissance … Fresh works on the subject of teratology are written by Italians, Germans, and Frenchmen. The foreruuner of the modern newspaper, the broadside were bought at street corners and at fairs by the barely literate masses. The great reformers Luther and Melanchthon used the broadside medium to popularize their propagandistic and anti-Catholic versions of two of the most famous monsters of the Renaissance, the Monk-calf of Freiburg and the Pope-ass of Rome. (from Popular culture in the Middle Ages By Josie P. Campbell).

Some of Calderon’s plays dealt with the proselytization of the Native Americans – like his play, La Aurora En Copacabana (Dawn in the Copacabana), described as a play about “the conquest and conversion of the Indians in Peru”

The success of the conquest, therefore, is attributed to (Christian) faith which is valued as mans greatest gift to the world … Thus (Christian) conquest becomes a form of colonisation with the purpose of imposing religion and culture on a land “que habitan inhumanos” (512) and is in need of redemption and education. Finally, the play tries to harmonise irreconcilable contradictions which lie at the bottom of colonial discourse. (texts in parentheses mine).

With this idea, must be seen something important. That is the important element of “the escape of the monster.” In the … Monster Theory, Joel Cohen has remarked that the monster always escapes. Now combine the three elements – the newly acquired colonies of America, the proselytization (or otheriwse, the genocide) and the escape of the monster. These were the ‘monsters’ of colonialism.

A very interesting play by Calderon was La vida es sueño (Life is a dream). It tells the story of Segismundo, the Prince Of Poland, who was destined to be a monster. To forestall the prophecy, Segismundo was imprisoned by his father from the time of his birth. In adulthood, released from prison to test the prediction, Segismundo fulfills the prophecy. As a analyst of Calderon’s work summarizes,

Affirming a “better reality,” Segismundo’s message speaks as well to all of Europe: the “new European man” is the real monster. (from The subject in question By C. Christopher Soufas).

200 years after Calderon, HG Wells, in the The Island of Doctor Moreau, foretold Joseph Menegle’s experiments rather well.

Onshore genocide – The Roma Gypsies

Apart from the Jewish persecution, less known is the the persecution of the Roma Gypsy, which continues till date. In Europe, kidnapping children was considered legal for most of 1500AD-1750AD. On one condition – you had to kidnap Roma Gypsy children! More than 25,000 children kidnapped. No problem. Everybody sleeps peacefully at night. Switzerland was doing this till 1973!

Roughly, between 1500 to 1750, it was legal in Europe to hunt human beings. Yes! Just like hunting for deer in India, or hunting buffalo in Africa or fox-hunting in Britain. Yes! You could hunt human beings. As long as the humans you hunted were Roma Gypsies. In Europe you could be hung to death if you committed the crime of being born – between 1500AD-1750AD! Born as a Roma Gypsy!

Europeans, in the their age of Enlightenment and Renaissance, (1500-1750) could just pick up human slaves – yes, own them like cattle and furniture, if you found one! As long as they were Roma Gypsies. Later you could also sell them for profit!

Ship owners and captains in Europe’s Golden age, (1500-1750) could arrange galley slaves for free. No wages, no salary. You just had to feed them. Use them, abuse them, flog them, kill them, drown them. You could do anything – as long as they were Roma Gypsies.

What set off the Roma Gypsy Genocide

In 1420, a 60 year old man, blind in one eye took charge – and took on the might of the Roman Church and Roman Emperors.

Jan Zizka.

Over the next 12 months, he became completely blind. In the next 15 years, Zizka (and other Czech generals) defeated, many times, the combined armies of Germany, The Roman Church and others. His military strategy was studied for the next 500 years. Thereafter, the myth of military might of the Church was broken forever.

Jan Zizka allied himself with the Taborites (the radical Hussite wing). Zizka made Tábor in Bohemia into an armored and mobile fortress – the Wagenburgs.

Interestingly, a 100 years after the Hussite Wars, the European persecution of the Roma Gypsies began in full earnest. And during WW2, the Vatican joined with the Nazi collaborators, the Ustashe,  to extort gold and the genocide against the Roma Gyspises.

Military success

Zizka ranks with the great military innovators of all time. Zizka’s army was made up of untrained peasants and burghers (townspeople). He did not have the time or resources to train these fighters in armament and tactics of the time. Instead they used weapons like iron-tipped pikes and flails, armored farm wagons, mounted with small, howitzer type cannons.

Roma Gypsy Wagon Caravan
Roma Gypsy Wagon Caravan

His armored wagons, led by the Taborites, in offensive movements, broke through the enemy lines, firing as they rolled, cutting superior forces into pieces. For defense, the wagons were arranged into a tight, impregnable barrier surrounding the foot soldiers – the Wagenburg (the wagon fort), as they came to be known. The wagons also served to transport his men. Zizka thus fully initiated modern tank warfare. Zizka’s experience under various commanders was useful. At the Battle of Tannenberg (1410), Zizka fought on the Polish side , in which the famed German Teutonic Knights were defeated.

Coming back …

Who were the major users of the wagons in Europe then (and now?) Answer – The Roma Gypsies.

Who were the people who could pose spiritual and ecclesiastical questions to the Vatican? Answer – The Gypsies, with their Indian heritage, were not not new to spiritual dialectics (contests, discourse and debates). For instance, Mani, and his adherents, an Indic teacher of Buddhist thought, known to Christians as Manichean thought, were the nightmare for Christianity till the 15th century. When Mani called for overthrow of slavery, the Vatican at the Council of Gangra, re-affirmed its faith in slavery. European minds were occupied with the questions raised by the Hussite reformers.

Some think they (the Waldensians) had held them for centuries; some think they had learned them recently from the Taborites. If scholars insist on this latter view, we are forced back on the further question: Where did the Taborites get their advanced opinions? If the Taborites taught the Waldenses, who taught the Taborites?

Who were the people who could help the persecuted Waldensians, the Bogomils, the Cathars to escape persecution and spread out across the Europe? Answer – The Roma Gypsies – in their wagons. The same Gypsies, had earlier pioneered the Troubadour culture in the Provence Region, which provoked the Albigensian Crusade by the Vatican.

Prokop Coat Of Arms
Prokop Coat Of Arms

And who was the King of the Taborites? Answer – An entire clan of leaders who called themselves as Prokop (The Shaven /Bald; The Little and The Great) were the military leaders of the Taborites.

The word and name Prokop have no meaning in any European language – except in Sanskrit, where it means vengeance, retribution, violent justice.

Mythology as History

Jan Hus initiated the Reformation in the Vatican Church. It was Jan Zizka who broke the back of Papal authority. On the back of these Czech successes, was laid the foundation of 95 Theses by Martin Luther in 1517. The British break (1533-34) with the Holy Roman Church happened due to favors by the Papal office to the Iberian Empires – in matters of trade and colonial expansion, and the impediments to divorce of Henry-VIII at the behest of the Spanish rulers.

Today, the Germans and the British are loath to be reminded about the Czech Church Reform initiatives and the defeats at the hands of the Poles and Czechs. Western historiography about the Enlightenment and Renaissance, in Britain, France and Germany, leading to the reformation is ‘mythology as history’.

Of course, the role of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Byzantine Empire in the entire Czech saga is also worth re-examining. Were the Hussite Wars, a proxy war waged by the Eastern Church against the Vatican?

Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr.Hyde

In the 19th century came the monster story was dubbed as Gothic – and this form of story-telling matured as a craft.

A significant array of Gothic writers emerged from Ireland (from Charles Maturin, Sheridan Le Fanu, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde to the contemporary writer Patrick McGrath), in a colonial situation where a Protestant minority was the colonial occupier. (from Late Victorian Gothic tales By Roger Luckhurst)

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851), wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley started writing Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, at the age of 18, and completed it one year later. First published in London, anonymously, in 1818 by small London publishing house of Harding, Mavor & Jones – after previous rejections by bigger publishers like Charles Ollier (Percy Bysshe Shelley’s publisher), and John Murray (by Byron’s publisher). The writer’s name started appearing from the second edition of 1823 onwards. The interesting aspect, lost in popular usge, is that the monster is not named – and Frankenstein was the scientist, who brought the monster to life.

In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde was first published. This explored how ‘normal’ (Dr.Jekyll) human beings could become ‘evil’ (Mr.Hyde).

And in 1887, Bram Stoker, an Irish writer published his Dracula. The character of Dracula is based on Emperor Sigismund and his Order of the Dragon, who waged war against the Hussites – led by Jan Zizka. Infamous for his betrayal of Jan Hus, he sparked of the Hussite Wars, in which the Taborites (the Roma Gypsies) used wagons and gun powder for the first time in Europe. He founded a secret sect,  the “Dracul” called the Order of the Dragon.

Of course, these three are the most famous – but not the only ones. Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1871 “Carmilla“, about a lesbian vampire was another monster book of its time. An associate of Mary Shelley, John Polidori created the character of the “The Vampyre” in 1819 – on which possibly Dracula was based.

Most significantly, in 1896, was HG Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, which presaged Joseph Mengele – when Joseph Mengele had not even started on his higher education. A good 50 years before Joseph Mengele’s experiments were discovered by a shocked world.

The wellspring of these works is H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. In this 1896 novel, a vivisectionist attempts to transform animals into men until the misshapen creatures revert and kill him, the forces of nature overcoming man’s civilizing artifices. From The Boys From Brazil (Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele, alive and well and cloning Hitlers at a secret lab in the Brazilian Amazon) to Jurassic Park (Richard Attenborough alive and well and cloning velociraptors), Wells’ basic formula has become familiar: an island; a Frankensteinian experiment; a Faustian scientist; something gone terribly, terribly wrong. (from Requiem for the Mad Scientist By Arthur Allen, in Slate).

From the 1700-1800, while Spain was in decline, for about a 100 years, Western literary field did not see too much action on the monster front. The main action was in Haiti, where zombies, the ex-murderers, the living dead became a part of the voodoo cult.

The late Victorian era was one of the most expansive phases of the empire. Britain annexed some thirty-nine separate areas around the world between 1870-1900, in competition with newly aggressive America in the Pacific or the European powers in the so-called ‘Scramble for Africa’ after the continent was divided up at the Berlin conference of 1885. (from Late Victorian Gothic tales By Roger Luckhurst)

The last of the true great monster in popular culture came from the East. Soon after WW2, as tales of Japanese atrocities started coming out and as American atrocities in Vietnam started, Godzilla came out of Japan. But a different pressure head was building up, which gave rise to a new genre – detective fiction.


Between 1800-1950, Western powers killed (directly or otherwise) more than 50 million people in America (the Native Americans), Africa (the Native Africans and Afro-Americans), Asia (Indians, Chinese, Arabs). This led to a situation that every other person in the West had participated in murder or massacre. Western ambiguity towards Soviet Russia on one side, Hitler on the other – and to that add, Gandhiji’s resolute opposition to colonialism – and you have a inflammable situation.

The deluge of blood and murder caused moral anxiety and was a matter of ethical dilemma amongst common folks. The pressure valve for this was popular fiction. Identifying murderers became a form of proxy, vicarious entertainment for ordinary folks. Enter the super detectives, who pick out the murderer from a room full of ordinary people. Enter detectives like Auguste Dupin, of ‘The Purloined Letter‘ fame, who “investigates an apparently motiveless and unsolvable double murder in the Rue Morgue.”

The Controversial Tintin In CongoMurder in Popular Image

A trend started by Edgar Allan Poe, whose first detective novel, Murders In Rue Morgue (1841) soon became an avalanche. Writers like Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple solving murders happening by the second), Georges Simenon (and his Inspector Maigret investigating brutal crimes), Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn), GK Chesterton (Father Brown), Raymond Chandler (Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe) dealt with murder. Alfred Hitchcock made horror thrillers in similar themes.

Agatha Christie’s book filmed as Ten Little Indians, based on the book, initially released (the book) in Britain as Ten Little Niggers (later renamed as Then There None) gives the game away. Agatha Christie probably pre-saged the White desire to ensure that there should be none of the Native Americans left to tell the tale. The overt racism in Herge’s ‘Tintin in Congo’ made the world sit-up and note the pervasiveness of racism in detective fiction.

Jerome Delamater, Ruth Prigozy, in an essay compilation, ‘Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fiction’, observe that Jane Marple, along with Hercule “Poirot becomes an equal opportunity detective who really believes that anyone might commit murder”. Dismissing the jaundiced view of human nature,” the writers of this book, while commenting about the detective fiction genre, do not mention slavery at all – and mention colonialism and racism once each.The History Of Mystery

The Mystery of the Dying Detective

After de-colonisation, as mass murder went underground, the detective-murder mystery books genre faded. This category was replaced by a new theme – the axis of corporation-government international conspiracies.

Conspiracy Theory – Full Steam Ahead

The new category of popular fiction are represented by Ian Fleming, Arthur Hailey, Frederick Forsyth, Irving Wallace, Robert Ludlum, Graham Greene, John Le Carre, et al. More and more contrived, each conspiracy theory writer has been ‘inspired’ by real life incidents.

While Ludlum’s international-conspiracy-plot-CIA-FBI-KGB series have worn thin, the spookiness of Le Carre’s Absolute Friends and Constant Gardner still work as novels representing the West.

Western Twins – Anxiety and Paranoia

To develop this understanding further, there are two classes of films that I wish to draw attention to.

Malignant Nature

Jaws (the shark that eats humans), Jurassic Park (mad scientists, conspiring technicians let loose man eating dinos) Gremlins and Poltergiest (things that go bump in the night). This paranoid fear of nature (and natural laws) seems to be a result of the subterranean knowledge of the way in which ecological damage and pollution is happening. These films produced /directed by Steven Spielberg (who is incomparable because as Time Magazine says, “No one else has put together a more popular body of work”)

Illegal AliensVindictive Humans

The other is the thinly disguised hate and prejudice films against the poor and the victimised. ‘Aliens’ needs just one small change for the films idea to become clear. Instead of LV-426, Nostromo the space ship, receives a distress call from some country in South America or Africa (or India, if you prefer). The meaning is clear when you see the movie while conscious of the fact that alien is is the word the US Government uses for people from other countries.

What Does This Mean

A US commentator Robert Putnam says that

“… We don’t trust each other as much as we used to. Trust in other people has fallen from 58 percent in 1960 to 35 percent in the mid-1990s. Our less trusting atmosphere has led us to recoil from civic life and social ties. We belong to fewer voluntary organizations, vote less often, volunteer less, and give a smaller share of our gross national product to charity (Putnam, 1995a, 1995b; Knack, 1992; 1986; Uslaner, 1993, 96-97). People who trust others are more likely to participate in almost all of these activities, so the decline in trust is strongly linked to the fall in civic engagement (Putnam, 1995a; Brehm and Rahn, 1997; Uslaner, 1997) …The Purloined Letter Drawing

Elephants in the room

Most critics and commentators write about the phenomenon of detective fiction devoid of context – and the detective fiction as entertainment only.

One writer, Franco Moretti did half the job in book Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms By Franco Moretti. He writes,

“The perfect crime – the nightmare of detective fiction – is the feature-less, deindividualized crime that anyone could have committed because at this point everyone is the same.” He further writes,“Yet, if we turn to Agatha Christie, the situation is reversed.Her hundred-odd books have only one message: the criminal can be anyone …”

Detective FictionIn his entire book he does not use the words like slavery, racism, genocide, bigotry even once. The 19th century, which was based on Western bigotry, White racism, Black slavery, and assorted genocides is unrecognised in Moretti’s books.

Running or hiding? Or it a case of feeling squeamish? Perhaps, a case of queasy stomach, Franco?

Another book, The Detective as Historian: History and Art in Historical Crime Fiction, by Ray Broadus Browne, Lawrence A. Kreiser does a better job. This book examines, the detective fiction genre, with some references to slavery and child prostitution.

How was this explained away

As the monsters increased, both in real life and literature, rationalizations were required. A person no less than Immanuel Kant, was pressed into service to deconstruct the ‘monster’, re-invent it and give it a positive spin.

The monster taken up by Kant in an aesthetic sense to refer to those things that exceed representation considers that the monstrous describes an entity whose life force is greater than the matter in which in which it is contained. Thus rather than something that malfunctions during the course of its production, monstrosity is associated during romanticism with “over-exuberant living matter” that extends itself beyond its natural borders in order to affect a much wider sphere. ((from The subject in question By C. Christopher Soufas).

Detective Fiction

In the twentieth century, Kant’s hypothesis finds an echo when Lord Randolph William Churchill, the ‘Bulldog’ declared

“I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race has come in and taken their place. (from Minorities, peoples, and self-determination By Nazila Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila Ghanea, Alexandra Xanthaki, Patrick Thornberry)

In another instance, Churchill wrote how ’superior’ Arabs, imposed on the ‘inferior’ negroes.

The stronger race imposed its customs and language on the negroes. The vigour of their blood sensibly altered the facial appearance … (from The River War By Winston Churchill).

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