2ndlook

Bated Breaths: Government-Change Across The World

Posted in America, China, Current Affairs, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on June 18, 2012

Probably never in history have so many government changes happened in unison. To this add the global crisis in leadership.

A ballot box as a defibrillator?  Revive the Egyptian economy?  |  Cartoon by Luojie from China, Politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image.

A ballot box as a defibrillator? Revive the Egyptian economy? | Cartoon by Luojie from China, Politicalcartoons.com | Click for image.

Between April 2012 and March 2013, four of the five P5 nations with the Security Council veto at UN, will have a change in government. This probably more than in any similar period in history.

For a world, in the middle of The Great Recession, with a global leadership crisis, this period of uncertainty and change, does it mean hope? With empty agendas, greater resentments and despair is more probable.

Take Russia for instance.

A wooden-faced Putin, probably after a botox treatment, has become President amid street protests and allegations of vote rigging – purportedly, engineered by the US.

Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russian president on Monday in a glittering Kremlin ceremony that took place less than 24 hours after protesters opposed to his rule had battled police in downtown Moscow.

Putin’s motorcade had sped through empty streets locked down by a heavy security presence on its way to the Kremlin State Palace, where some 2,000 guests had gathered to witness his inauguration for a six-year term.

Those assembled included Putin’s predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev, and Patriarch Kirill, head of Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church. The patriarch later blessed Putin’s inauguration in a Kremlin service. Former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was also in attendance.

Police made 120 arrests as some 200 people, including Yeltsin-era deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, protested Putin’s return to the presidency at separate locations near the Kremlin.

Over 400 people were arrested and scores injured as Sunday’s rally against Putin’s rule turned violent when protesters briefly broke through police lines in a bid to take their protest to the Kremlin walls.

Putin was forced to step down in 2008 by a Constitution that forbids more than two subsequent terms, but is silent on further presidential stints. He shifted to the post of prime minister after installing Medvedev in the Kremlin, but remained by far Russia’s most powerful politician.

Russia’s Constitution was amended in 2008 to increase the presidential term of office from four years to six.

The amendment means that Putin could remain in power until 2024, longer than any Russian or Soviet leader since dictator Joseph Stalin. (via Putin Returns to Kremlin Amid Protests | Russia | RIA Novosti).

Soon after Vladimir Putin, it was the turn of France to have a new head of State. Right in the middle of a Euro-zone currency and banking crisis, a new French President has taken over.

Unlike the earlier German-French consensus over austerity, Hollande has made some noises against the austerity-led agenda. This opens a new wave of uncertainty across Europe – and the world.

What can embattled Euro-bankrupts expect? A taste of austerity? A helping hand with growth? What will Euro banks get? A haircut or a debt-cut? Euro-Corporations are left struggling with an over-valued Euro-currency, a stagnant home market and a weak global market.

In the meantime France and Germany are discussing how to manage European crisis.

Socialist Francois Hollande has defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential runoff by just over 1 million votes. He won 51 per cent of the vote against his rival’s 49. The president-elect has already pledged “to finish with austerity.”

Hollande will be the first French socialist president of France since 1995. He will be sworn in as new president of France on May 15.

Francois Hollande capitalized on France’s economic woes and President Sarkozy’s unpopularity. He has also promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than €1million a year, and lower the retirement age to 60.

Sarkozy, who has been in office since 2007, had promised to reduce France’s large budget deficit through budget cuts. It is only the second time an incumbent president has failed to win re-election since the start of France’s Fifth Republic in 1958. (via Hollande wins French presidency with 51.7% of votes — RT).

But Angela Merkel’s problems at home may make her more accommodating – or indecisive.

At the recent State elections, in May 2012, for North Rhine-Westphalia or “NRW” region, Europe largest state, also Germany’s most populous (13m), said a resounding ‘nein’ to Merkel’s party – the Christian Democrats.

This could either mean that Merkel becomes more flexible or worse, diffident. Soon after this wave of government changes across the world, Germany itself will be facing elections – between 27 August-27 October 2013.

These elecxtions are likely to be less than likely to be stabilizing  |  Cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen of DryBones at Politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image

These elecxtions are likely to be less than likely to be stabilizing | Cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen of DryBones at Politicalcartoons.com | Click for image

But the Egyptians don’t have wait for so long. On Saturday, 16th June, Egyptians voted

in the first free presidential election in their history to make what many find an unpalatable choice between a military man who served deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak and an Islamist who says he is running for God.

Reeling from a court order two days ago to dissolve a new parliament dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, many question whether generals who pushed aside fellow officer Mubarak last year to appease the pro-democracy protests of the Arab Spring will honor a vow to relinquish power by July 1 to whoever wins.

“Both are useless but we must choose one of them unfortunately,” said Hassan el-Shafie, 33, in Mansoura, north of Cairo, exasperated like many who picked centrists in last month’s first round and now face a choice between two extremes.

With neither a parliament nor a new constitution in place to define the president’s powers, the outcome from Saturday and Sunday’s run-off will still leave 82 million Egyptians, foreign investors and allies in the United States and Europe unsure about what kind of state the most populous Arab nation will be. (via Egypt makes stark choice for president – Yahoo! News).

Free and fair elections? Secret ballot? | Cartoonist - Marian Kamensky from Slovakia; source & courtesy - cartoonblog.msnbc.msn.com | Click for image.

Free and fair elections? Secret ballot? | Cartoonist – Marian Kamensky from Slovakia; source & courtesy – cartoonblog.msnbc.msn.com | Click for image.

Reports are Egyptians are already missing Hosni Mubarak.

While the Egyptian vote will be talking point in the Islamic world, for the Euro-zone, the election in Greece is more important. The day after the Egyptian election, on Sunday, June 17, 2012, the Greeks voted

in an election that could decide whether their heavily indebted country stays in the euro zone or is forced towards the exit, potentially unleashing shocks that could break up Europe’s single currency.

Opinion polls are banned in the final two weeks of the campaign but party officials’ own estimates on election day showed the radical leftist SYRIZA bloc, which wants to scrap the punishing austerity package demanded by international lenders, neck and neck with the conservative New Democracy party, which broadly supports it. (via Greek voters to decide euro future – Yahoo! News).

The one change in Government that is the most difficult to call is in China. The Chinese duo of Hu-Wen, who have presided over the biggest expansion in China’s economy, are at the verge of retirement.

Though they won’t be saying zai jian 再见 – good-bye, see you soon! Sometime between September 2012-November 2012, 3000 delegates of the Chinese Communist Party of China (CCP), will be meeting

For the new nine-member Politburo Standing Committee to be endorsed at the congress, which marks a transition of power after 10 years of rule under President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

People’s Daily, the CCP’s flagship newspaper, said on May 3 that “at present, the elections” of the 2,200-plus deputies to the 18th party congress are going as scheduled. By April 27, 12 provinces including Beijing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Jilin and Shandong have already decided on their deputies (who in fact are not really “elected” democratically but nominated by grassroots party organs and decided by higher authorities).

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily also reported that deputies to the 18th party congress representing the PLA and the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) have been nominated for the final approval of the Central Military Commission (CMC). There is no problem for other “constituencies” to complete their selections of deputies before June 30 – the set deadline.

The 18th party congress will be held “in autumn of this year”, in contrast to the official announcement of the CCP Central Committee that it would be held “in the latter half of 2012”. In China, autumn is generally considered to run from September to November.

It will be held in autumn or before the end of November following the party’s tradition. According to party rules and adopted practice, the current central committee will hold its last plenary session to endorse the agenda of the 18th congress shortly before its convention. (via Asia Times Online :: Rumor aside, a smooth transition is assured).

It is the economy stupid!  |  Caetoonist:  Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch at Politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image.

It is the economy stupid! | Caetoonist: Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch at Politicalcartoons.com | Click for image.

Definitely, the most widely covered government-change in the world, the American elections in November has set off an avalanche of speculation in world media.

Speculation has been let loose.

A nuclear deal with Iran? An organized retreat from Afghanistan? The eurozone picking up a little bit of steam? Stable oil prices? Forget it. The crucial foreign elector recruited for Obama II at the White House is one Osama bin Laden. Call it the “Obama nails Osama” winning strategy.

No wonder the winning strategy has been subcontracted to the Hollywood/Pentagon combo. Washington lost the Vietnam War, but won it in on screen. Oscar-winning director Kathryn Hurt Locker Bigelow had already started the process of “winning” the Iraq War on screen – at least morally. Now it’s time for her new project – an as yet untitled movie – on the “Get Osama” May 2011 Abbottabad raid and the events leading up to it. With POTUS (that’s president of the United States) as the hero of his own action movie. (via Asia Times Online :: How Osama re-elects Obama).

Obama is definitely worried about an asteroid like Euro-zone crisis derailing his campaign  |  Cartoonist: Christopher Weyant of The Hill, Politicalcartoons.com  |  Click for image.

Obama is definitely worried about an asteroid like Euro-zone crisis derailing his campaign | Cartoonist: Christopher Weyant of The Hill, Politicalcartoons.com | Click for image.

Hollywood has been roped in. The hottest of Silicon Valley ‘brains’ have been called in. But, even then,

If the European crisis explodes or an attack on Iran drives up oil prices, the U.S. economy may tank and render moot all of Messina’s careful planning. Or the recovery could pick up steam, or the old gaffe-prone Romney could return and hand Obama an unexpectedly easy win. (via Messina Consults Jobs to Spielberg in Crafting Obama’s Campaign – Bloomberg).

Analysts have been reading the election-motive in the Chicago-Summit or the G* summit that Obama called for , in Chicago.

It believed that a worried

Barack Obama is to press German chancellor Angela Merkel to support a growth package to help bail out Europe at the G8 summit this weekend amid fears in the White House that the eurozone crisis could damage the president’s re-election chances.

Obama is scheduled to meet Merkel, the new French president François Hollande, the Italian prime minister Mario Monti and British prime minister David Cameron at Camp David on Friday evening.

But foreign affairs analysts said that Obama’s leverage with the European leaders is minimal on this issue. Although the US has the economic muscle to help Europe out of its mess, the Obama administration took the strategic decision not to become involved directly.

Instead, Obama is to use the Camp David summit for some quiet diplomacy, hoping to sway Merkel to endorse some immediate actions to help growth. The problem for Obama is that most of the initiatives being discussed in Europe are medium-term or longer, too late to help him if the European crisis impacts on the US economy in the fall, just ahead of the election in November. (via G8 summit: Obama to press Angela Merkel on eurozone growth package | World news | guardian.co.uk).

Soon after the US President is sworn-in to office by February, Pakistan will go for elections. Unless there is an army coup. Or a US invasion.

Probably, Pakistani Government is the only Government in history, which has taken the help of a foreign government, to invade its own country. It all boils down to

cessation of drone strikes is one of the two preconditions of Pakistan for ending the present standoff that has gone on for more than six months and has caused much tension. The second pre-condition is an apology by the US for the November 26, 2011, airstrike at Salala in North Waziristan that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. After this ghastly “friendly fire”, Pakistan had closed the transit route for supplies to Nato troops in Afghanistan. It remains shut because US President Barack Obama has refused to apologise, and it is doubtful that in an election year he can change his mind.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also faces election some four months after the presidential poll in the US. He is in no position, therefore, to give up either of the two preconditions prescribed by an all-party committee of Pakistan’s Parliament. The man most pleased with this intractable situation must be the all-powerful Army Chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. Ever since the US attack on Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden 13 months ago, the Pakistan Army has felt humiliated but has successfully turned the public anger over its failure to prevent the incident against America. The anti-American feeling within the Pakistan Army may not be as strident as among the public, especially the jihadis, but it is strong enough. The general can, therefore, sit back while the weak President is left holding the baby.

It is in this context that one must view also the big blow at the Nato Summit on Afghanistan in Chicago last month to the heavily fraught US-Pakistan ties. The US had seen to it that the invitation to Mr Zardari was delivered at the last minute, when it seemed to Washington that Nato supplies through the southern route would be resumed by the time the Pakistani President arrived at the summit.

When this did not happen, Mr Obama gave Mr Zardari a cold shoulder. At the opening of the summit, he did not even acknowledge Mr Zardari’s presence while welcoming Afghan President Hamid Karzai and even “officials” from Russia and Central Asian republics. Moreover, he denied Mr Zardari a one-to-one meeting. In Chicago, there was understandable concern that the widening gulf between the US and Pakistan might “complicate” the planned exit of Western combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

From then on, bilateral talks between America and Pakistan — which have not broken down even though there are senior members in both establishments who would like to end them — are focused on inducements to Pakistan to reopen the supply line. (via US-Pak: Separated, not divorced | The Asian Age).

On most matter, finally, Pakistan has the last word. Here also we will let Pakistan have the last word.

And a very important word, it may turn out to be.


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Egypt raids on US NGOs

Posted in America, Current Affairs, Islamic Demonization, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on March 3, 2012

Buried deep inside newspapers, are specifics and details of how the US ‘managed’ Arab Spring protests in Egypt. No surprises for 2ndlookers here.

The US probably will be able to change Middle East's rulers in the next 2-4 years. How much blood is the only open question? (Cartoon by drybones.com).

The US probably will be able to change Middle East’s rulers in the next 2-4 years. How much blood is the only open question? (Cartoon by drybones.com).

Harmless NGOs

As a wave of protests washed over the Arab world, global media, followed the Western lead – and sang hosannas to this ‘people’s movement.’ It would come as no surprise to 2ndlook readers that this entire saga was creation of Western powers.

Specific details have come out in the course of the last 1 year. Going by the patterns behind these ‘revolutions’, 2ndlook posts pushed the case of ‘manufacture’ strongly – and clearly.

The 2ndlook line on the Arab Spring has now been vindicated.

On Dec. 29, Egyptian security forces raided the offices of 17 foreign-based groups, known as nongovernmental organizations, including the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House, all of which receive millions of dollars annually in U.S. government funding.(Read more here).

It was estimated by Egyptian sources that ‘funds sent to the five NGOs currently under investigation have doubled following Egypt’s January 25 revolution, reports the Egyptian Ahram Online.

According to Reuters, the U.S.-based groups operate programs to train political parties. But the Egyptian public prosecutors office says it’s investigating whether they received foreign funding to do local politicking, which would be a violation of Egyptian law. The Guardian reports that “in recent months, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has accused local non-governmental organizations of receiving money from abroad, and has argued that the recent unrest in the country is by ‘foreign hands’.” (via Egyptian Police Raid NGO Offices in Cairo – Global – The Atlantic Wire).

The Masque of Arab Spring

Indian press coverage of this 75-day drama has been minimal.

Below is the complete story, based on mostly American and Egyptian reports. This chapter started with raids by Egyptian authorities on ‘at least 17 NGO offices in Egypt, including IRI’s, in late December 2011’, as per BBC News reports.

Among the groups under investigation are the US-government funded National Democratic Institute – founded by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright – and the International Republican Institute, whose chairman is Republican senator John McCain. Both organisations are affiliated with the two major political parties in the United States.

Both the NDI and the IRI receive most of their funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US State Department, and the National Endowment for Democracy. (via Egypt authorities ‘secure’ US military plane repatriating NGO workers – Politics – Egypt – Ahram Online).

A total of 43 employees of four democracy promotion organizations have been charged with illegally accepting foreign funds and operating without a license. A fifth group, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, is based in Germany. (via U.S.-Egypt Tensions Persist as Pro-Democracy Workers Allowed to Leave – Bloomberg).

Western media reports claimed that these NGOs were ‘assisting Egyptian democracy activists with voter registration and electoral reform efforts.’ Confessing to the media, an US official,

Campbell said NDI and IRI are very mainstream organizations with no history of problems operating in foreign countries. “Nothing like this has ever happened to us before. It’s pretty shocking,” (via K Street defends Egyptian raids – John Bresnahan – POLITICO.com).

Egyptian courts came down hard at the staffers in these NGOs. They were detained and instructed not to leave Egypt. All those US citizens who were

hit with travel bans work with the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute. Both receive U.S. public funding and are loosely affiliated with the two major U.S. political parties. (via US Embassy shelters Americans amid Egypt NGO crackdown – Yahoo!).

Big Daddy with Big Stick

In this group of foreign staffers, under investigation by Egyptian authorities, was Sam LaHood, the son of the US Secretary of State for Transportation, Ray La Hood.

Sam LaHood (pictured above on the far left). Image source – AP; source – theatlanticwire.com

Sam LaHood (pictured above on the far left). Image source – AP; source – theatlanticwire.com

The transport secretary said he was puzzled as to why US and foreign NGOs were suddenly in the spotlight.

“These NGOs have been working for years in democracy-building efforts, and they thought they were well within their right to do it,” he said. “So it’s a little bit puzzling to many people what’s happening there.” (via BBC News – Ray LaHood: US pressing Egypt on NGO workers).

With such high level patrons, would these NGOs and Think Tanks simply submit.

IRI, NDI and Freedom House have pushed back hard, with help from their own high-profile supporters. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is the chairman of IRI’s board of directors, while Sam LaHood, son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and a particular target of Egyptian ire, runs its program there. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is the head of NDI’s board, with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) serving as a vice chairman.

Both IRI and NDI had submitted registration applications to the Egyptian government as foreign-based NGOs in the mid-2000s. The Mubarak regime never approved the applications, despite repeated requests from the groups that it do so. So both organizations were technically operating
in violation of Egyptian law. (via K Street defends Egyptian raids – John Bresnahan – POLITICO.com.).

Soon after charges were filed by Egyptian authorities, in December,

the Americans took refuge in the U.S. Embassy compound in Cairo. The charges carried a possible jail sentences of as long as five years and fines, Ashraf el-Ashmawy, a judge overseeing the case in its early stages, told Bloomberg News.

Image source & courtesy – politico.com

Image source & courtesy – politico.com

Arm twisting still works

Face with such grim news, the US Government pressured Egypt, where it hurt most.

In the past year, Egypt has run through about half its foreign reserves, which hit $16.4 billion in January, the lowest level since December 2004, according to central bank data. Reserves fell almost $2 billion a month, on average, since October. In addition to U.S. aid, the NGO dispute jeopardized Egypt’s plans to seek a $3.2 billion IMF credit. (via U.S.-Egypt Tensions Persist as Democracy Workers Leave Egypt – Bloomberg).

Washington and Cairo may soon end a standoff over 16 American civil society employees facing trial in Egypt, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said as the case’s judges recused themselves.

“We are engaged in very intensive discussions with the Egyptian government about finding a solution,” Clinton said during a Senate hearing. “We’ve had a lot of very tough conversations, and I think we’re … moving toward a resolution.”

Cairo is “coming to understand” Washington was serious when it threatened to cut off $1.55 billion in annual aid to Egypt, she said Tuesday. (via Egypt ‘coming to understand’ US is serious about aid cuts: Clinton – Politics – Egypt – Ahram Online).

The mirror cracked

With some tough judges, the shaky political class in Egypt was at a loss for answers.

Egyptian Cabinet minister Mohammed Amr said the government cannot interfere in the work of the judiciary.

“We are doing our best to contain this but … we cannot actually exercise any influence on the investigating judges,” he reporters at a security conference in Munich, Germany Sunday, before the announcement that charges would be filed against the foreign activists. (via Egypt NGO Trial: Sam LaHood, Ray LaHood’s Son, Among 19 Under Investigation).

After weeks of threats, diplomacy, manoeuvrings, Egyptian Government cracked.

U.S. pro-democracy workers facing trial in Egypt for illegally accepting foreign funds left the country, with the cases against them unresolved and tensions between the two nations still high.

Fifteen workers for non-governmental organizations, including the Americans, departed Cairo in a U.S. government plane after a court lifted their travel ban and their organizations posted bail. The group included Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The U.S. government plane that took off from Cairo carried NGO workers of several different nationalities, including American, Norwegian, Serbian, German, and Palestinian. (via U.S.-Egypt Tensions Persist as Democracy Workers Leave Egypt – Bloomberg).

Under intense political pressure, Egyptian courts set bail at a stupendous amount.

Nuland said the NGOs paid bail, which was set at 2 million Egyptian pounds ($332,000) for each defendant, according to Negad El-Boraie, who represents employees of the International Republican Institute and Freedom House, another U.S.-based civil-society group.(via U.S.-Egypt Tensions Persist as Pro-Democracy Workers Allowed to Leave – Bloomberg).

the money to pay the bail ultimately came from the U.S. government, saying that the Obama administration had agreed to treat the legal expenses stemming from the incident “as part of the activities that the U.S. government funds.”

“The NGOs paid the bail out of money that they received from the U.S. government,” she said. “We agreed to this because the situation arose in the context of the democracy promotion work that they were doing that we had funded and supported.”

Nuland said that it was up to the U.S. citizens who had left to decide whether to return to Egypt to face the charges. (via U.S. government ultimately paid bail for Egypt NGOs | Reuters).

But Egyptian authorities did throw some sand in the works.

Cairo Airport Authority officials this morning prevented a British man involved in the NGO case from leaving the country, reported the Egyptian news publication, Ahram Online.

With one of their kind under threat, the entire US Government machinery creaked and groaned.

According to officials and staffers close to the issue, the bulk of the credit for the progress thus far goes to the administration and first of all Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, who has been working furiously to resolved the crisis in Cairo. Other key officials involved were Brooke Anderson, the National Security Council chief of staff, who was the White House point person on the issue, and Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. The Justice Department and State Department Counselor Harold Koh have also been heavily involved, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey visited Cairo earlier this month and discussed the issue at length.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met twice with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr on the issue last weekend, once on the sidelines of the Somalia conference in London and once on the sidelines of the Friends of Syria conference in Tunis. The State Department also sent a delegation of lawyers to Tunis, an official said on background basis.

According to sources close to the negotiations, in the end the key Egyptian figures who facilitated the deal to were Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and Justice Minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz Ibrahim. In fact, U.S. officials believed they finalized the outlines of a deal with those two leaders last week, whereby the judge presiding over the NGO trials would lift the travel ban when the trials opened on Feb. 26. (via Egypt NGO crisis: Don’t pop the champagne corks just yet | The Cable).

Jetsam and flotsam

This has left many hurt egos, bruised feelings and some debris.

The dispute over the non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, has underscored the uncertain state of U.S.-Egypt relations since pro-democracy protests forced out of office President Hosni Mubarak last year. While welcoming the news about the NGO workers, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Obama administration doesn’t consider the issue resolved. (via U.S.-Egypt Tensions Persist as Pro-Democracy Workers Allowed to Leave – Bloomberg).

There are some rumblings and upheavals in Egyptian judiciary, that will need some handling.

The presiding judge in the case recused himself on Wednesday without disclosing the reason. This led many to believe that judicial independence had been violated by the authorities.

Several judges have accused Judge Abdel Ezz Ibrahim, the head of the Court of Appeal, of putting pressure on the presiding judge to step down after which the travel ban was lifted.

Some judges who are unhappy with perceived preaches of judicial independence are currently collecting the signatures required to hold a general assembly of the Judges’ Club to look at Judge Ibrahim’s conduct.

In an interview on state TV’s Channel One on Friday, Ibrahim admitted to asking Judge Mohamed Shokri to recuse himself from the case. He claimed there was a conflict of interest because Shokri’s son works in a legal consultancy office that deals with the US embassy.

Shokri refuted Ibrahim’s statement, and stated that he would have recused himself from the start of the case if he had detected any conflicts of interest. He added that he would present an official report to explain why the three commissioned judges overseeing the NGO case resigned. (via US government paid NGO workers’ bail – Politics – Egypt – Ahram Online.).

Egyptian judges are thinking of organizing a revolt.

According to Hisham Raouf, the head of one of the appeals courts, he and several other judges are currently collecting signatures from their colleagues to get the support required to hold the general assembly. The assembly will look into the role played by Judge Abdel Ezz Ibrahim, the head of the Cairo Appeals Court, in the NGO case.

Raouf told Ahram Online that the assembly will consider withdrawing confidence from Ibrahim for putting pressure on the judge presiding over the NGO case to step down.

In an interview on state TV’s Channel One, Ibrahim admitted to asking Judge Mohamed Shokri to recuse himself from the case. According to Ibrahim, there was a conflict of interest, as Shokri’s son works in a legal consultancy office that deals with the US embassy. A statement refuted by judge Shoukri who said he will present an official memo to explain why the three commissioned judges resigned. (via Judges brew a storm around appeals court head who interfered in NGO case – Politics – Egypt – Ahram Online).

A new set of despots – more like puppets, though, are taking position in the Arab world. The first few lessons have been learned.

Next time around …

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Onward, American Soldiers! Another million await death.

Islamic world changing?


Meshing and gnashing – The Clash of civilizations

Posted in Current Affairs, European History, History, India, Islamic Demonization, Media, politics, Religion by Anuraag Sanghi on February 16, 2011
Huntington's book gave pseudo-intellectual justification started the Western campaign of Islamic demonization. (Image source - http://www.bayesianinvestor.com/books; artist attribution not available at image source)

Huntington

Mercenary logic

Samuel P . Huntington’s 1993 book, Clash of Civilizations, has a historical ring to it – a hint of something grand. An influential book, it ostensibly examined ‘conflicts between Western and non-Western cultures’ – and brought the phrase, Clash of Civilizations into limelight.

In the post-Soviet World, the book marked the launch of a new Western campaign – Islamic demonization. This book, released some four years after Rushdie-fatwa, provided pseudo-intellectual justification for West’s anti-Islamic campaign.

The America+NATO sponsored ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaign in Bosnia was underway, since 1992. Saturation media coverage of Monica Lewinsky and cigars effectively drowned President Clinton’s role in the initiation of the anti-Islamic campaign – and the news coming out of the Balkans. Deliberate diversionary tactics?

India’s co-option too, into this campaign was planned in significant detail – and successfully executed. 9/11 (September 11, 2001) was still 8 years in the future. The verbal trickery behind Huntington’s Clash of civilizations ‘package-deal’ has gone by without challenge or de-construction in India. This post will cover some Trojan concepts Huntington  smuggled into the mainstream.

A Basic Stance

For one, the definition of civilizations has to be beyond race, ruins and region. Instead, a definition  around differentiated structures – political, social, economic and ethical structures makes comparative analysis possible.

Civilizations tend to repeat political, social, economic and ethical structures. In the last five thousand years, only three civilizational models can be identified and substantially differentiated.

Desert Bloc

The world’s dominant model today, it has been able to nearly erase competing systems from the collective minds of the ruling elites in the world.

Signs of the Desert Bloc’s birth were first evidenced in the Assyrian Empire – its first laws codified by Hammurabi. Dating is contested, and best estimates are that the Assyrian Empire collapsed around c.600 BC. Seven of history’s largest empires used the Assyrian Empire, as a springboard.

The Desert Bloc extends from west of India, across Middle East, West Asia, extending to Central Asia and Eastern Europe – with its core in a region of 1000 miles radius of Palestine. Inventors of religion, world’s three important religions, (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) were born within 1000 miles radius of Palestine, in the deserts of Middle East. Each of these religions were, so to say, ‘backward compatible’. Islam recognizes Christianity, which uses Judeo-Mosaic texts for its foundations.

Anti-feminist, none of the three religions have female goddesses – unlike the two other civilizations specified below. Western Christian world gave women the right to vote, mostly between 1920-1950. Low levels of marital success are institutionalized – and instead prostitution levels are high.

The Desert Bloc depends on extreme competitiveness between its own factions to gain leadership – extending the analogy of survival of the fittest. Some of its defining struggles in the last 1000 years were Islam vs Christianity; Spain vs Portugal; England vs France; USA vs USSR.

Such factions spring up around deified leaders based on a sharp identity – race, tribe, language, region, religion. Significant leadership struggles have broken out between even intra-religious sects – like Catholics and Protestants, Shias vs Sunnis.

A significant marker of the Desert Bloc is concentration of wealth, power and land in the hands of these deified leaders and their inner circle. Unlike the two other civilizational groups, as we will see. This allows Desert Bloc factions to indulge in extremism. Over 90% of the world’s bloodiest wars, genocides, massacres, annihilations, are to the Desert Bloc account.

The Desert Bloc is differentiated by extensive use of slavery, rule by elites, conspicuous consumption (show piece buildings, spectacular technology) et al.

Driven by ‘at-any-cost’ approach, in the Desert Bloc, everything and everyone is expendable to attain leadership position. Driven more by accelerated creation and destruction, Desert Bloc sub-groups have short life spans (Achaemenid Iran, Greece, Rome, Mongol Empire). Greece, Rome, the Ummayyads, Abbasids, Mongolian Empire, Colonial Spain and Britain best represent the Desert Bloc.

Can different factions of the Desert Bloc, like the Christian West and Islam collaborate? The Islāmic Ottoman Empire and the Christian European powers could not get around to colluding with each other. Even the collusion between the Christian European colonizers was  difficult.  Unless it was over carving the spoils, dividing areas for exploitation – like Papal Bulls (between Spain and Portugal) or the Berlin Conference which triggered the ‘scramble for Africa.’

The  Afro Group

Apart from the Indic System, the only other civilization, the Afro Group could resist the Desert Bloc onslaught in the last 1000 years. The Afro Group successfully kept its identity, at a great cost, unlike Native Americans or Australian aborigines.

An iconic photograph of the Soweto uprising. (Image courtesy - le-regent.net; photographer attribution absent at source).

An iconic photograph of the Soweto uprising. (Image courtesy - le-regent.net; photographer attribution absent at source).

They successfully engaged with the Desert Bloc in Haiti, at Battle of Isandlwana (22 January 1879), by the Mau Mau in Kenya.

Monica Schulyer, an assistant professor of history at Wanye State University, (thinks) the name Mau Mau was itself a British invention and means nothing in Kenyan. Members of the independence movement called them selves the Land and Freedom Army.

In modern South Africa, on July 16, 1976, the ‘day began with a march by 10,000 students carrying banners and slogans, saying “Down with Afrikaans” and “Viva Azania” (the name given to South Africa by black nationalists)’. Soon the number swelled to ‘fifteen thousand school children involved in the protests (Tuttle 1)’, rose against imposition of Afrikaans language by White Apartheid rule. Known to the world as Soweto Uprisings, it is without parallel in the annals of history. In the very heart of the modern Desert Bloc – the USA, after centuries of slavery and discrimination, the Afro Group was able to roll back excesses.

Their robust ‘native’ intelligence best describes how Desert Bloc works. In Jomo Kenyatta words,

“When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”

Another unit from the Afro Group, Cuba, far from its base in Africa, after breaking from slavery,  successfully resisted coming under political bondage of the Desert Bloc, for the last 100 years. In the ancient world, Carthage checked the spread of Desert Bloc, represented by Greece. Carthage allied with Rome to destroy Greece.

Before that, Nubians brought the Egyptian Empire to heel. The 25th dynasty from Nubia or Kush, south of Egypt (modern Sudan), ruled over Egypt for at least 75 years. Piye, earlier”Piankhy”the Nubian king invaded Egypt (ca. 746 BC) – and started the 25th Dynasty, that probably continued till 650 BC. He was succeeded by Shabaqo (ca. 716-702 BC) and his successors Shebitqo (ca. 702-690 BC) and Taharqa (690-664 BC).

Traditional African structures had diffused land and wealth ownership – unlike the Desert Bloc. There is little proof of concentration of wealth in African structures.

Both, the Afro Group and the Indic System have a much superior record of minimal environmental degradation. The Big 5 in animals – elephant, tiger /leopard, lion, wild bull, rhino exist only in the these two core geographies. Big Game hunters in Africa (from the Desert Bloc, where else) described 5 animals as the Big 5 – elephants, lion, buffalo, leopard and the rhino as the Big Five. These were animals that were difficult to hunt and kill (for pleasure, if you thought otherwise).

This ‘pleasure’ was the operating principle. As a result of this ‘pleasure’, there are only two parts of the world where such Big Five exist. India and Africa. China, the Middle East and of course Europe and America, have wiped entire continents of all these animals.

Modern history, under a Hegelian spell has ignored Afro Group history. Bereft of spectacular structures, visible ‘leaders’ or the recent decline in fortunes, the study of African history has been decided as unimportant.

Indic systems

Based on भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra platform. Indic systems focus on four freedoms – काम kaam (desire, including sexual) अर्थ arth (wealth), मोक्ष moksh(liberty)and धर्मं dharma (justice), and stipulates unrestricted access to ज़र zar (gold), जन jan (people) and ज़मीन jameen (land).

Originating in India, based on platform of anti-slavery, distribution of power and diversity, this was the dominant ideology in the world till about 8th century. In Tibet, Songtsen Gampa, the 33rd king, became the first dharma-raja in 7th century – a follower of भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra . The Indic system has been in sharp retreat for the last 500 years – especially after Mughal rule in India. Inspite of sharp reversals in the last 500 years, half the world is still significantly influenced by Indic systems.

Militarily impregnable till about 17th century, Mughal rule established the first beachhead for the Desert Bloc in India.

Strong population growth based on widespread marital occurrence, strong and extensive family structures, are features that have sustained Indic systems in the society, even though some rulers defected to the Desert Bloc.

Indians worship every item of God's creation - not just cows. (Image source - Sri U.Ve. Prasanna Venkatachariar Chaturvedi Swamin)

Indians worship every item of God's creation - not just cows. (Image source - Sri U.Ve. Prasanna Venkatachariar Chaturvedi Swamin)

With diverse liturgical, beatification, sacramental practices, graded pantheism (local deities, semi-divine gods and goddesses with a top layer of the Holy Trinity), faith and belief do not occupy the space or importance that religion has in the Desert Bloc. These are within the realm of individual choice with scattered efforts at proselytization

The Indic system still has significant following in China and most of ASEAN region – notably Indonesia, Tibet, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka. The modern proof of this was the India Independence League (IIL) headed by Subhash Chandra Bose.

In recent times

Each of these megaliths have traditional spheres of influence.

Post-WWII world has been been seriously influenced by the Desert Bloc. The Desert Bloc split into two factions. The liberal-progressive, democratic, Judeo-Christian faction led by America. Significant parts of the world has moved to the Desert Bloc orbit, and adopted the religion of Westernization.

An interesting study is the post-WWII behaviour of the Euro-American faction. After WWII, as British, French and Dutch colonialists were being thrown out of Asia, in country after country, the West was in real danger of losing markets and raw material sources.

To make war palatable, Desert Bloc invented religion. (Image source - loonpond.com; artist attribution not available at image source)

To make war palatable, Desert Bloc invented religion. (Image source - loonpond.com; artist attribution not available at image source)

A new power, fueled by a growing migrant population, USA, took the place of tired, old powers – Britain, France and the Dutch. Instead of the openly-exploitative system of European powers directly running colonial governments in these Asian countries, the US installed an opaque system – which is equally exploitative. To impose its writ on the newly independent Asian countries, the US simply destroyed their  economies by war. The USA, then instituted the innovative USCAP Program and ‘helped’ these countries. These countries (Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, et al) were now ruled by overtly independent regimes – but covertly, client states of the USA.

US multinationals and home-grown oligarchs (keiretsus, chaebols, etc.) took over the economy – and sidelined British, French and Dutch companies. To impose this economic model, US armies, using nearly 1 million troops, killed 50 lakh Asians. The takeover of European colonial possessions by the USA was handled over 3 regimes of Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson seamlessly.

Islamic units

The second faction is the Islamic faction. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, by the West, after WWI, new renegade groups supported by the West, sprang up. These renegade groups are using extremist  Islam to meld the Islamic faction into a more powerful factor in the global power equation.

Some of these Islamic regimes installed and supported by Western powers have been slowly drifting away from the West – like Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, etc. Some other regimes are longer able to call the shots – like the Saud family, or the Iraqi regime.

The other aspect of the Islamic faction is the geographical spread. The primary Islamic region is the Arab region, centred around Middle East /West Asia region. The secondary Islamic region is the Central Asia – earlier a part of the Mongol Empire. Walled in by China and Japan on the East, by Russia on the West and diverse countries in the South, it is a shadow of its former self.

The region with the largest Islamic population is South and South East Asia – concentrated across India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia. The South and South East Asia Islamic region has a moderate and non-imperial history.

Hence these three regions (Middle-East region, Central Asian region and South /SE Asian) have evolved differently and have little in common. Hence, the image of the Islamic ‘world’ as a monolithic unit is misleading.

Big trouble in Little China

The other puzzle is classifying China. China under Confucian State model was solidly in the Desert Bloc. After the advent of Buddhism, as the Chinese people became landholders, as they obtained rights to own silver and gold, they moved to Indic system. Marriage and family systems became the norm – instead of exception.

After and under Mongols, for instance the Kublai Khan restricted silver and gold rights – and issued fiat currency. The Chinese State has mostly been Desert Bloc in its tendency. But the Chinese people have great faith in their Buddhist teachers. Will China become a staunch Desert Bloc member like Iran in the past, is still possibly an open question.

Even stevens!

The Assyrian thread

With Niniveh, (also called Asshur) as its capital, the Assyrian Empire, ended in 600 BC. The Assyrian Empire passed through many hands – recreating and renewing itself in the same mould. The name, Assyrian Empire was a Roman modification of Asuristan – the area of current Iraq.

The  Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC) were the first successor power to preside over the Assyrian Empire, from their capital in Perspolis. Many wealthy Jews were envied for their vast slave holdings. Alexander ousted the Achaemenids to rule over the Assyrian Empire – effectively after the Battle at Gaugemela (331 BC). Daidochi Wars after Alexander’s death and attacks by Rome-Carthage alliance  led to the disintegration of Macedonian rule. Romans, added Western Europe, and ruled over the Assyrian Empire for the next 350 years (60 BC-285 AD), with its capital in Rome.

Rome formally lost the Assyrian Empire when Diocletian was forced to split Roman Empire in 285 AD. Eastern Roman Empire, well-known for its premier city, Byzantium (a cognate of Indian Vyjayanti) mostly had its capital in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) continued to gain power and wealth over the next 400 years.

Various Islamic dynasties (c.700-1300) ruled over large parts of the Assyrian Empire, with capitals mostly in Damascus, Baghdad, till they were deposed by Genghis Khan’s Mongols. After adding China, Mongol factions ruled over the Assyrian Empire for varying periods, between 1300-1600 AD over different parts of the Assyrian Empire.

It was the Mongols who helped in the rise of the West. First, was the trade in millions of slaves from Eastern Europe (the Slavs, hence slaves) by Venetian and Florentine traders, which funelled vast monies into European economies from Egyptian and Byzantine slave-buyers. This wealth from slave trade was the stuff of which tales are told. Shakespeare wrote of Merchant of Venice, Comedy of Errors, Gentlemen of Verona. Leonardo da Vinci,  architect Bramante, sculptor Donatello, Michelangelo, Titian and other famous artists found patrons with the earlier Visconti, powerful Medicis, notorious Borgias, lesser known Sforza (Milan), Pazzi and the Albizzi families. It was this slave-trade that fuelled Renaissance art and culture. Florence, Venice, Milan became major banking centres. Double-entry book keeping became standard, under which any kind of financial picture can be created. Quite unlike the Indian single-entry system.

Mongols brought to the West two major technologies. One, was the Indian decimal system and Indian saltpetre for gunpowder, was the other. Indian mathematics (initially outlawed by European rulers) is the foundation of Western science and technology. Indian gunpowder was their ticket to military power. Wealth from trade in African slaves, conquest, loot, annihilation of Native Americans, using gunpowder, fuelled a 500 year technology boom in the West.

The last significant dynasties that ruled over the ancient Assyrian Empire were Islamic Ottomans and the Christian Austro-Hungarian Empire. These two empires were dismantled after WW1 (1920) by Western allies.

Slavery rarely finds mention in Indian media. Much less is any discussion or understanding about the role of slavery in the rise of the West. A rare Indian columnist with awareness of the slavery factor. Even this discussion about clash of civilizations does not work.

Dating agenda in ‘modern’ history

Posted in European History, History, India, Media, politics, Religion by Anuraag Sanghi on February 21, 2010
Annales Veteris Testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti: una cum rerum asiaticarum et aegyptiacarum chronico, a temporis historici principio usque ad Maccabaicorum initia producto. Jacobo Usserio Armachano, Digestore

Annales Veteris Testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti: una cum rerum asiaticarum et aegyptiacarum chronico, a temporis historici principio usque ad Maccabaicorum initia producto. Jacobo Usserio Armachano, Digestore

09:00 hr, 23rd October, 4004

Western history and historians, then and even now, have tried to fit Indian civilization into a Biblical calendar frame.

Western historians needed a Day-zero date, the date of creation, to build their historical narrative. Various Western ‘scholars’ and ‘historians’ worked backwards and arrived at a date. The date was 4004 BC.

For all those, to whom the year 4004, was not precise enough for the beginning of mankind, Earth, history, further refinement was supplied – Monday, October, 09:00 hr. This chronology estimated that God created Earth in 4004 – based on Ussher-Lightfoot chronology. A situation where

each generation of Orientalists accepting almost without question or examination the dates handed down to them by the first pioneers, whose thoughts and imaginations were cramped with the limits set by the archbishop Ussher. (1906, from The theosophical quarterly, Volume 4, By Theosophical Society in America).

Max Muller, the ‘Orientalist’, whose template for Indian historiography is followed till date, significantly, had no choice but to use the Ussher-Lightfoot chronology. Till 1857, Britain through the East India Company, followed Spain and Portugal, who had planted the banner of Christ in heathen and pagan lands’. The Chairman of the Directors of the East India Company, Ross Donnelly Mangles, piously declared in the British House Of Commons –

“Providence has entrusted the extensive empire of Hindustan to England, in order that the banner of Christ should wave triumphant from one end of India to the other. Everyone must exert all his strength that there may be no dilatoriness on any account in continuing in the country the grand work of making India Christian.”.

It took a revolution in Haiti to start the end of the Spanish Empire – and the 1857 Anglo-Indian War to end the English campaign to ‘convert the heathen’ and ‘civilize pagan Hindoos.’

His 'calculations' were followed even in the 20th century

His 'calculations' were followed even in the 20th century

Egypt rules

In all this, Egyptian history was the hub, around which the spokes of Western historical constructs rotated. Hence, there has been resistance to changing Egyptian dates. Even with

“helpful data such as the record of a solar eclipse recorded in an Assyrian document that can be equated by modern astronomers with the one that took place on 15 June 763 … Before 1400, chronologies are much less precise, largely reflecting the poorer survival of useful evidence. As a result the debates over an absolute chronology for both Egypt and Babylonia are much fiercer.” (from From Egypt to Babylon: the international age 1550-500 BC; By Paul Collins; pages 10-14)

Traditional Western historians from both the schools don’t want to change – as whole libraries of history based on theories of Western superiority will become irrelevant. At least the dates will.

This resistance to change is an especially important consideration for dating of the Egyptian artefacts and history. Radio carbon dates for Egyptian history were dismissed as “errors have recently been revealed by comparing carbon-14 dates with known Egyptian Dynastic dates … carbon-14 estimates for Egypt are from several hundred to a thousand years too late …

The Greek miracle

The Greek miracle

Change in sources

From around 500 BC, sources also change. After the Greek Dark Age, modern Western history assigns greatest weight to Greek sources’.

After 150 BC, as the Greeks disappear, entire races, nations and dynasties mysteriously vanish. History becomes speculation. The fact that the Greeks themselves disappear after 150 BC, is not important, as per Western historiography.

For instance, instead of the disappearing Mittanis, it has been suggested that the Mittanis and the Medes were the same. Phoenicians make an entry and the Canaanites disappear – even though they are both the same.

In the Canaanite avataar, from being a race of Semitic people, Phoenicians become a trading and sea-faring people of unknown origins. Similarly, a hypothesis that instead of disappearing, Hittites became Lydians, is ignored. Another study proposes that Cyrus and Tiglath-Pileser III were the same.

The Dating Imbroglio

Historical dating till the 1960’s was based on a matrix of theology, politics, colonialism, archaeology, books, records, events, cross-indexing, astronomy. In most cases, all these factors were NOT present, resulting in a significant element of guess–work – and a major element of vested interests.

In 1960s, came new tools to assist archaeological dating system – the the Carbon-14 and the Bristlecone Pine tree-ring system – as well as others. Even this has been distorted by calibration, aberrant data and acceptable readings – all the time maintaining a veneer of secular and objective history.

Indian chronology – Deconstructing Indian dates

Behind this dating ‘logic’, is 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.

All these theories rest on the axle of philological dating. Based on imprecise evidence, tools and estimates, of when various texts were ‘composed’ and ‘reduced’ to writing, and ‘frozen for ever’, which are based on stylistic changes in Sanskrit language. Looking at construction of Sanskrit language and texts, the logic of oral ‘composition’, ‘reduction’ to writing, ‘frozen for ever’ is a wrong model – and creates these false debates and models.

Sanskritic compositions were team-based effort, (picture Sage Durvasa travelling with his 1000’s of disciples), a vast body of argument and debate  (Kahoda-Vandin-Ashtavakra debate) over many hundreds – if not thousands, of years. Vishwamitra, Vyasa, Vashishtha, Narada were the most well-known of the wandering monks of many Indian texts and scriptures. Appearing and disappearing at various points of time and events.

They could not have been the same person, because they appear at the (near) beginning of Rahgukul (Vishwamitra at the Trishanku incident) and at the (near) end of Raghukul (the marriage of Sita and Ram) – spanning more than 30 generations of kings. Was Vashisht, Vishwamitra and Vyasa, a titular  system, decided by a collegium of peer rishis. The ascension of Vishwamitra from a rishi-to-rajrishi-to-brahmarishi supports this.

The difficulty that Western historians have is the internal consistency across the vast body of texts and scriptures. For instance, Western historians trace Indian own significant achievements in astronomy to ‘import’ from Babylon – via Greece! David Brown, an ‘expert’, on Mesopotamian astronomy and astrology, goes further and asserts that the “evidence for transmission to Greece and thence to India in the Hellenistic period was overwhelming.” (from Learned antiquity By Alasdair A. MacDonald, Michael W. Twomey, G. J. Reinink).

What is this ‘overwhelming’ evidence that he presents? Nothing, but the usual dating mix ups. Considering “it unlikely that it was the work of one person’, analysts are surprised, ‘considering its internal consistency”.

Worried? There is more, where this from, Mr.Brown.

The fallacy of the Vedic age

There never was a Vedic age. Not in the sense that Western historiographers slot and exclude various developments. This presupposes linear, directional, phased, and centralized development of the Vedas. Assuming a command and control system, it has a non-empirical base.

For instance, this assumes that the Vedic age was dedicated to the Vedas – and all other texts developed after that.

Fact is that the Vedas depend on the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh; along with the Devatas and Asuras. The structure of the Devas, Asuras, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh can really be understood through the Upanishads,  the epics and the Puranas.  And we have not even begun on development of an ‘artificial’ language like Sanskrit  (as opposed to Prakrit).

Pauranik structures, Upanishadic debates, technical compendiums, the twin epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata were parallel developments and coeval – albeit at different stages of evolution, structure, style, pace and direction.

While other cultures struggle with low or high double digits of ancient texts, India has lakhs of them. This vast body of textual creation, has not happened anywhere else in the ancient world. The very assumption that it happened in India, in a matter of a few centuries – while the Aryans, Greeks, Persians, Scythians, Tocharians, Huns, were conquering India.

During these ‘invasions’, the conquerors were kind enough to leave Indian seers, sages, munis and rishis alone so that they could carry on with the composition of these texts. Massacre of the males, raping of the women and enslaving the rest, in the meanwhile continued in the parallel. And after these massacres and conversions, these invaders were of course kind enough to convert  to an Indian way of life – and melt away from the centre stage of Indian history.

To pass of these caricatures as attempts to phase Indian culture are artificial and unproductive. and simply not history.

Alexander, Porus, Takshashila and Gymnosophists

At the time of Takshashila’s decline in the 5th century, a significant Gupta king was Purugupta – successor of Skandagupta. Written records from Purugupta’s reign are few and far in between. He has been variously named as Vikramaditya, Prakashaditya and of course as Puru /Pura Gupta.

The most authentic link to his reign is the Bhitari seal inscription, (near Ghazipur, in modern UP). The Bhitari seal provided proof of an elongated Gupta reign – than the Skandagupta-was-the-end-of-Gupta dynasty dating. Currently dated between 467 AD, Purugupta’s reign saw many border wars.

Purugupta’s reign saw Vasubandhu, a known teacher of logic and debate, become famous and Huien Tsang reported on the debates based on Vasubandhu’s texts. Today Vasubandhu’s texts exist in Chinese and Tibetan languages – the original Sanskrit volumes remain untraceable. Purugupta also restored the gold grammage in the ‘suvarna’ coins, probably debased in Skandagupta’s time, possibly due to the cost of the fighting the Hunas.

Alexander and the Indian 'Gymnosophists' - Medieval European drawing

Alexander and the Indian 'Gymnosophists' - Medieval European drawing

Alexander’s ‘debates’ with Indian Gymnosophists was possibly with Vasubandhu’s disciples. Is it that the Porus identified by the Greeks, Purugupta? Were the marauding soldiers, mentioned in Chinese texts, and in Indian texts during Purugupta’s times, mercenary Huna soldiers hired by Alexander to replace the ‘deserting’ Greek’ soldiers, on the eve of his Indian ‘campaign’? The 8000 Brahmans that Alexander massacred were possibly teachers at Takshashila. The dating of the Gupta dynasty to end of the 5th century AD, is probably off by about 800 years.

State propaganda as history

The two point agenda was the maintenance of the Greek Miracle – motivated by desire to use history as a colonial and exploitative tool. And the other item on the agenda was the proving of the ‘correctness’ of Biblical events – which was motivated by a racial agenda to prove Western racial superiority.

By the time Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was officially announced, (interestingly, to coincide, with Boghazkoi decipherment), colonial history was set – and IVC at that time, was force-fitted into these datelines and ‘structures’.

Modern history, is now caught between the Greek Miracle History School, which has stuck to the Sumer->Turkey->Egypt->Greece->Rome->Europe–>West-Is-The-Greatest Axis and the Velikovsky School which is stuck to proving that the Bible is indeed the Last & Only Word.

Understanding Western history and agenda becomes impossible unless these motivations are remembered.

Reviving Phoenicia: in search of identity in Lebanon

By Asher Kaufman

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
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