Slavery & Oppression – In The West and In India

Posted in Current Affairs, Feminist Issues, History, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on February 18, 2008

The Moral Offensive

In 1901, Dadabhai Naoroji published his famous research – “Poverty and Un-British rule in India”. Before that, his 1876 paper, “Poverty In India” traced the rise of poverty in India due to colonialism. This laid the background for India’s Independence and shaped the strategy of Swadesh and Satyagraha. Fifty years later we were a Republic of the kind the world had never seen.

But …

This moral offensive continued for the next hundred years – provoking Nixon’s reaction during the Bangladesh War. “The Indians put on their sanctimonious peace Gandhi-like, Christ-like attitude,” an angry Nixon observed. Nixon declared, to George Bush Sr., then the USA ambassador to the United Nations, (later the President) on December 8, 1971, “We can’t let these goddamn, sanctimonious Indians get away with this. They’ve pissed on us on Vietnam for five years.”

Harry & Kill – Lord Irwin’s Peace Pact

The use of reverse-propaganda (a European tool) by the Congress against the British was singularly successful – and put the Colonial administration on the moral defensive. The British Colonial administration worn out by the “harry and kill” moral offensive of the Congress made peace. The British Viceroy, Lord Irwin brought some semblance of propriety in colonial administration thereafter. Military war then became less important.

The British response to that was ‘divide et impera’divide and rule; like the Euro-colonial cousins, the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg rulers. In the dying years of the Raj, the colonial administration put up issue of ‘untouchability’ and caste ‘oppression’. Untouchability, the caste system, social prejudices remained significant issues in post colonial India – and it continues to be a much debated and a divisive issue. Harijans, Dalits, manuvadis are terms and names used freely.

How much of this is real? Bad luck. It is a hoisted petard, which will blow up on the those who raise this.

Oppression – And It’s Many Avatars

Legal support for slavery is a feature of the Western and Levantine societies. Trade of human beings in market place had the support of the state. In Europe and USA, laws and courts  slavery. In Indic legal systems, such a feature has not been seen for the last 3000 years. The last Indic system which had explicit slavery laws were the Hittites around 1000BC. To cover up this aspect, and to shore up their image as champions of human rights, Western powers have tried to fuzzy the definition of slavery through the ILO – a creation of the Western powers after WW1.

To get some understanding on the oppression issue, a comparative examination may give a better perspective.

 Indian Removal

Painting by Robert Lindneux (Woolaroc Museum)

Wipe out of the Red Indian Population in North America

In 1492, when Columbus landed in the West Indies, the native American population was 3 million (in the what is currently USA) and more than 10 million in the Americas – and they spoke a 600 languages.

300 years later, they had become tourist attractions. The entire Anglo-Saxon race was against the very existence of the native Red Indian.

The British and the independent Americans were equally brutal with the Red Indians. During the French and Indian Wars, Britain waged a biological warfare against the Red Indians by distributing small pox infected blankets to Red Indians. 70 years later, Andrew Jackson delayed (some say withheld) small pox medical supplies and vaccines from Red Indians.

During the American War of Independence, George Washington, on May 31, 1779 Washington sent his official Instructions to Major General John Sullivan:

Sir: The expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the six nations of Indians, with their associates and adherents. The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible…whence parties should be detached to lay waste all the settlements around, with instruction to do it in the most effectual manner; that the country may not be merely overrun but destroyed

Reminiscent of George Bush threatening the world, either you are for us or against us , George Washington, made a similar remark more than 200 years ago. George Washington wrote to the President of the Continental Congress in 1776:

In my opinion it will be impossible to keep them [Indians] in a state of Neutrality, they must, and no doubt soon will take an active part either for, or against us…

Thomas Jefferson view of the native Red Indians was equally dismissive. He (King George III) has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions… (Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, 1776).

Treaty after treaty was made with Red Indians – which were broken time and again. The Whites coveted everything that the Red Indian had – but mostly, his life. This “land of the free” by all possible (and some impossible) means was soon made land free of the “natives and savages”.

The US President, Andrew Jackson started by (December 8, 1829) posing as a Red Indian sympathiser. He proclaimed

“By persuasion and force they (Red Indians) have been made to retire from river to river and from mountain to mountain, … tribes have become extinct … Surrounded by the whites … which by destroying the resources … doom him to weakness and decay … That this fate surely awaits them if they remain within the limits of the states … Humanity and national honor demand that every effort should be made to avert so great a calamity.” (parts excised for brevity and ellipsis inserted; bold letters mine).

His solution – remove the Red Indians.

In 1830, 40 years after George Washington became the President, the “land of the free”, a law was passed to make the land free of the native Cherokee (Red Indian) population. The vast prairie lands were expropriated – and the Cherokee Indians were marched out by the US army. This march, Trail Of Tears, signalled the break of treaty by White Anglo Saxons. Land West of the Mississippi were to belong to the Eastern Indians ‘in perpetuity.’

The Red Indians resisted removal and forcible transfers. Their resistance was brutally crushed. By December 4, 1832, Andrew Jackson was saying,

“After a harassing warfare, prolonged by the nature of the country and by the difficulty of procuring subsistence, the Indians were entirely defeated, and the disaffected band dispersed or destroyed. The result has been creditable to the troops engaged in the service. Severe as is the lesson to the Indians, it was rendered necessary by their unprovoked aggressions, and it is to be hoped that its impression will be permanent and salutary.” (bold letters mine)

Gen. Winfield Scott was sent in May 1938, (with an army) to deliver the ultimatum to the Cherokees. Move or we will make you. At your cost.

President Woodrow Wilson echoes the ideology behind the alleged “genocide” –

“The experience of Liberia and Haiti show that the African race are devoid of any capacity for political organisation… there is an inherent tendency to revert to savagery and to cast aside the shackles of civilisation which are irksome to their physical nature. Our industries have expanded to such a point that they will burst their jackets… Our domestic markets no longer suffice; we need foreign markets. In the matter of Chinese and Japanese coolie immigration, I stand for the national policy of exclusion… We cannot allow a homogeneous population of a people who do not blend with the Caucasian race.”

Just like Romani Gypsy and Australian aboriginal children were taken away from their parents, Red Indian children were also removed. In different continents, at different times, similar tactics were used by Europeans and the Anglo Saxons in the colonies.


In 1788, the estimated Aboriginal population was 7,50,000. By 1911, the survivors, were estimated at 31,000. Prior to the Anglo-Saxon settlement, “Australia was an ‘empty land’ because its inhabitants did not count as human“. Today, the Anglo-Saxon race prides itself for the building of Australia. Australia was a British colony and till date the Queen (or King) of Britain is the head of State for Australia.

Consider a one-time leader of the ‘free world’, the British Prime Minister during WW2, one time Chancellor Of The Exchequer, Winston Churchill, had his views on Arabs, Indians, Aborigines, Red Indians –

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.

Churchill similarly had highly enlightened views on Arabs. After all “the Arabs are a backwards people who eat nothing but Camel dung.” was Churchill’s stated stand.

One of the main causes of deaths was public health. In India, in the early 19th century, an estimated 25 million died due the cholera epidemic – as the colonial Government did not bother (to give them the benefit of any doubt). In Northern Ireland, during the Irish Famine, the then British Prime Minster with held supplies and essential aid from starving Irishmen. In USA, the Government delayed allocations to fight small pox, 20 years after similar actions for the Whites. Similarly from the Australian aborigines.

From 1860-1960

Little changed in 100 years after the American Civil War – except the matter of 25 million missing Blacks. At the start of the Civil War, the White Population of North and South was 22 million. And Blacks was 5 million. By 1960, the White population had grown by nearly 800%, to 160 million. The Black population in the meantime had grown by only 400% – from 5 million to 20 million.

What happened to the missing 400% of Black population growth? Apologists (and defenders) use white immigration to explain away some of the difference. But that further compounds the problem – because there was also about 1 million of Black immigration from Haiti, Jamaica, Africa and other countries.

Mortality amongst Blacks due to AIDS is higher than for Whites – 60,000 higher Black deaths every year. The New England Journal Of Medicine states,

Among patients infected with HIV, blacks were significantly less likely than whites to have received antiretroviral therapy or PCP prophylaxis when they were first referred to an HIV clinic“.

Nett, nett – about 20-25 million Blacks are missing. Due to deprivation, poor health care and indifference. The maths? US population today is 300 million. Black population was estimated 4-5 million and whites at 20-22 million at the start of the Civil war in 1860. By the 1860 ratios, there should be another 20 million to 25 million Blacks in the USA.

Woodrow Wilson Plugging Birth Of A Nation & KKKBut rights and equality is something else

From 1865 to 1965 Blacks though no longer bought and sold – were still excluded from the political and social systems – in the land of the free. The Freedman’s Bureau made the ‘free’ blacks into poor sharecroppers and destitute. The Ku Klux Klan became a vigilante group to ensure that Blacks stayed where they were – at the bottom of the economic, social and political ladder.

By 1890’s the disenfranchisement laws came into effect – which ensured that the disproportionate numbers of Blacks could not vote. Petty crime (where poor) where Blacks were convicted in higher ratios were grounds for disenfranchisement. These laws ensured that 10 times higher number of Blacks were disqualified compared to Whites. If that is not bad enough, it continues till now. After some 60,000 Black Voters were disenfranchised, George Bush, technically, won by less than 1000 votes (most were expected to vote against George Bush). Such tactics continue to be used to limit Black participation in democracy.

Martin Luther King in the Birmingham Alabama Jail April, 1963

The re-emergence of the Ku Klux Klan in its second avatar continued with its agenda of Black subjugation till the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The second coming was a mainstream event with President Woodrow Wilson endorsing the film and the message.

Black Emancipation

Black emancipation in the USA is a 1970s phenomenon, 30+ years ago event – and not 200 years ago as this article in New York Times seems to make out.

It took non-violent protests (Martin Luther King, inspired by Gandhiji) and violent threats (Malcolm X) for ’emancipation’ and equity to come in. In the Cold War scenario, under international media glare, during the Little Rock School stand-off, Eisenhower (a Southerner himself) reacted.

Al Haj Malik Shabazz aka Malcolm XReluctantly,in 1954, he sent in the National Guard to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce de-segregation. The Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas closed down the school rather than de-segregate. The eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation during the Kennedy years produced the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Demonise, Genocide and Apologise

Now that there are only a few Red Indians and aborigines left – they serve as tourist attractions. The ritual of regret and apology about their role in the genocidal past. Since, the “Jewish Problem” was solved by Hitler (there are hardly 1 million Jews left in Europe and 5 million in USA), the West and USA has no problems, anymore with the Jews. Australia, Canada and France have tendered their ritualistic apologies – and start demonizing someone else.

In fact, Jews today serve a useful purpose to the West. After the Anglo-Saxon led alliance broke up the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East (post WW1), the Israelis were introduced into the Middle East after WW2 as the Western cat’s paw. They have been suborned to the job of keeping a lid on the simmering oil rich, Middle East, and keeping it in check.

What is the real cost to the USA – an inflated arms bill. They make up the cost of supplying free arms to Israel by selling the same arms to the oil rich sheikhs. What does it cost Israel to serve as the ‘America’s terrible swift sword in the desert’ – millions of precious Jewish lives, lost in the fight to keep the Anglo Saxons in luxury.

Western demonisation of Islam has replaced the Jewish demonisation (Shakespeare joined in with his anti-Semitic Merchant Of Venice). Without taking responsibility for the destabilisation of the Islamic World by the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire after WW1 – perpetrated by Anglo-Saxon countries and the French.

The Greatest Suffering

The Blacks in the USA and Europe have seen some justice – as they were an important constituency in the Cold War. USA propaganda was on the verge of losing Africa to Soviet Russia. The Jews have been very persistent and they have not let the world forget – or the perpetrators rest in peace.

The forgotten lot is that that of the Romani Gypsies. This one segment based in Europe and USA continues to remain on the fringes and discriminated. They have been hunted (like forest animals), their children kidnapped (to end their race and social system), they have been gassed (by Hitler along with the Jews), they have been galley slaves, In fact there was a time when they could be killed, if found alive!

The History Of King Leopold-II & Congo

“Dr.Livingstone, I presume!” and that is how Henry Stanley made his name and the life of Congolese miserable. Based on this incident, he was given a contract by King Leopold-II to establish “trading posts along the Congo River”. In time, like with other colonial possessions, with a mix of fraud, guile, deceit, force, massacre and other such ‘civilised’ norms by ‘Christian’ civilisers, Congo was also made into a colony. By King Leopold-II of Belgium, in his personal capacity.

King Leopold King Leopold (current king’s predecessor 3 times away) was murderer. Plain and simple.

What happened was that in 1871, King Leopold decided that he needed to get respect. So he called for the Brussels Conference. His colleague, Otto Von Bismarck, of Germany got into the act and called for the Berlin conference. Plans were hatched and agreements signed.

Based on Dr.Livingstone’s propaganda, it was decided there that Europe will directly enslave the Africans – instead of the the Arabs. At that time 90%of Africa was free. In the next 20 years, 90% of Africa was colonialised.

King Leopold’s personally owned the Belgian Congo territory. His personal army-men and his personal agents killed more than 1 crore people. When hardly any Congolese were left, he sold Belgian Congo to his own country for GBP3.8 million. Congo was a major producer of rubber – and the King’s agents kidnapped African families – and released them against collections of natural rubber from African forests.

To understand oppression better, we also need to look at the genesis of the various religions across the world.

The Desert Religions

Judaism, Christianity, Islam were all born within 500 miles of each other and share a common culture and history. Judaism can be said to have been born when Moses led the Hebrew slaves from the Pharoah (across the Red Sea) to freedom. This possibly happened around 500 BC at the latest to 1500 BC at the earliest. His earliest followers were the Hebrews and they were a significant part of the Middle Eastern history all through till today.

The next major religious reformer in the Middle East was Jesus Christ. For the first 300 years, Roman slaves were the major believers in his teachings. Emperor Constantine earned the loyalty of his Christian troops and won the war for Roman throne by his win over Maxentius at Milvan Bridge. Prior to Maxentius, for the previous 30-40 years, Christians had been persecuted by “rule of four’ Tetrarchy reformists in Rome, headed by Diocletan. Hence, the Christian slave soldiers of Constantine were eager for victory – as the persecution under Maxentius would have been worse.

Liberated slaves were the founders and rulers of Islamic dynasties, (in India, the Slave dynasty – builders of Qutub minar). Thus all the three “desert religions” were first adopted by the slaves and only after gaining significant numbers of adherents, these religions became mainstream and commenced aggressive proselytising and conversions.

What’s Going On Here

‘Caste systems’ (by different names) are prevalent all over the world, in all societies, based on colour, race, income, wealth, education, social status, political position, et al. Most such ‘caste systems’ have no force of the state behind it or are legal. They are the burakumin in Japan today and the Blacks in Europe and USA. The most ‘respected’ caste system is the British nobility which exists even today – a caste system, approved by law. In India, colonial administration encouraged and increased divisions within society. Through propaganda efforts of the ILO, the Indian caste system, is now being equated with slavery.

Slavery (capture, kidnap, sequestration, transport, trade and transfer, re-capture of human beings) continued in the “desert bloc” till the 20th century. In the Indic territories, it was an inherited institution – and last seen in the Hittite rule around 1000BC. Faced with West Asian reluctance to give up slavery, Indo-Aryan rulers disengaged politically from West Asia and Middle East from around 1000 BC. Possibly, the slave revolt of Egypt by Moses itself was a result of the liberalising laws of the Hittites. Hence the fade out of the Indic rule from the Middle East – but the continuation of Buddhist influences, trade and peoples contact.

Reformers In India

After the slave revolts in the Middle East, India was witness to major renewal movements. More than a 100 Bodhisattvas and 24 Jain Tirthankaras were major figures in India’s renewal after the slave revolts in the Middle East. Modern history, influenced by Western historiography, recognizes only the “ahimsa twins” – Gautama Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavira.The “ahimsa twins” – Gautama Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavira were both princes of royal blood – Prince Siddharth and Prince Mahavira.

Their first adherents were the rulers and their methods of proselytising was also aimed at the ruling class. Ashoka The Great sent missions with his daughter Sanghamitra to Sri Lanka – where Buddhism was established.

Guru Nanak Dev came from the upper caste family and his focus was to end feuding on the basis of caste and creed. His first converts were from upper class families cutting across religions – and hence the opposition from some of the Mughal Kings.

Gandhiji was from the upper caste and the first item on his reform agenda was end to the “bhangis” carrying fecal refuse on their heads. His initial focus was social reform and less of anti-British activities.

Half the world today follows Indic religions and culture. The other half follows the “desert religions”. The development trajectories of these two halves has been significantly different. The motivations, behavioural and acceptable civilisational norms for these blocs are different – and mostly opposite.

Same difference?

Based on the above most notorious cases of oppression, there are some clear markers for to ‘real oppression’.

Declining Populations

In all the cases above, Jews in Europe, Black population in the Africa and USA, the Gypsies across USA and Europe, the aborigines in Australia, The Red Indians in America, or the Belgian Congo, the ‘marker’ for oppression was the decline in population. And we are not talking about a few percentage points here and there (which can be explained by many factors) but by multiples.

State Oppression versus Social Discrimination

In all these cases, these genocides were legalised – in USA with the Dredd Scott case. In Europe, anti-Gypsy laws existed till 1973 in Switzerland and other countries. The Red Indians and Aborigines were dispossessed in connivance with the State and enabling legislation. There were laws in Europe and Australia which allowed people to kidnap children of the oppressed and take them away from their parents.

Economic Rationale

All these cases of oppression are marked by a clear economic motive. Cotton plantations in the USA needed black slaves,West needed natural rubber from Congo, Red Indian land Vilfredo Paretowas needed by the West, Gypsy and Aboriginal children were kidnapped by declining European and Australian populations. Europeans historically envied Jewish business success.

How much of the division of labour in Indian society was coercive, extractive or enforced – and how much is explained by Pareto’s Law of Social Disequilibrium?

Majority Oppression Or Military Might

In all these cases, the majority oppressed the minority – or massacred them till the oppressed became a minority. Military might was used for oppressive purposes – like King Leopold-II in Congo, till such time, the oppressed became numerically weak.

Does this hold true for India?

What about Harijan massacres incidents. Two aspects – these massacres are not approved or condoned by law. Massacres and death of Red Indians, Aborigines, Jews, Gypsies were approved by law (yes, that is right! Click on links and other posts to get more info on that). There are equally massacres by the ‘oppressed’ in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, J&K, MP – which shows a failure of the ‘over-burdened’ State and not oppression.

The Oppressed Make The Laws In India

At the time of Indian Independence, the ‘oppressors’ (the ‘ruling’ Brahmin Hindus) gave the role of Constitution writing to the leader of the ‘oppressed‘ – Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. No ‘oppressed’ class has been ‘given’ such a position and responsibility in any country of the world – ever. No ‘oppressor’ lets the ‘oppressed’ write the laws.

And for the record, let me state, BR Ambedkar was NOT given that position – he earned it.

The Oppressed Population Grows Faster than the Oppressors

The population of the ‘oppressed’ is growing at a faster rate than the ‘oppressors’. Thus the ‘oppression’ of the majority in India is resulting in a faster growth for the oppressed. A first in the history of oppression.

Reservations Of Opportunities

The US affirmative action (a dilution of the Indian reservation system) was a persuasive system – whereas India is the only country where the ‘minority’ oppressors are supporting an enforced, legally mandated system of reservations for the ‘oppressed’ majority. The whole world is fighting to steal, rob, snatch, kill and maim for opportunities – but in India the ‘oppressors’ are giving away opportunities.

Caste System & Slavery

‘Caste systems’ (by different names) are prevalent all over the world, in all societies, based on colour, race, income, wealth, education, social status, political position, et al. Most such ‘caste systems’ have no force of the state behind it or are legal. They are the burakumin in Japan today and the Blacks in Europe and USA. The most ‘respected’ caste system is the British nobility – which is a caste system, approved by law.

Slavery was different – and a distinctive feature, promoted (largely) by the Western and Middle Eastern powers. It had state sanction, state protection, laws passed by the kings, emirs, emperors, parliaments and legislating authorities. The US Supreme Court (Dredd Scott Case) even prohibited slaves from approaching courts for any redress. There was an organised, legal, sponsored industry involved in the kidnap, sequestration, transport, trade and transfer (and might I add re-capture) of slaves – with the might of the state behind it.

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Feminism, Women, Social Position, et al

Posted in Feminist Issues, History, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on November 13, 2007

Indian women in the ancient world …

One of the wonders of the ancient world was The Hanging Gardens of Babylon – commissioned by King Nebuchadnezzar 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, 605-562 BC, (as spelt in English) not only married a Elamite princess, but also took on an Elamite name (related to the Dravidian languages). Replace ‘b’ with ‘d’ and you are very close the Tamil name of Neduncheziyan (Nedunchedianuru) – a current and modern Tamil name.

Interestingly, Neduncheziyan is more famous as the fabled erring Pandyan King in the Tamil classic – Silappadhikaaram. Neduncheziyan’s mistaken justice, brings him grief and finally death. In the Tamil classic, Neduncheziyan is overshadowed by the other King, Cheran Senguttavan. Cheran Senguttuvan’s fame rests today on the Tamil classic, Silappadhikaaram – written by Jain Saint, Elangovadigal.

And who were the Elamites?

The Elamites

The people of Elam (yes in Tamil, Eelam means homeland), were the first to civilise the Iranian Peninsula in the 2700 BC period. They were contemporaries of the Egyptians, the Mittanis and the Hittites. The Elamites were a significant people till the 800BC in Persia (modern day Iran).

The Elamites concluded a major treaty with the Akkadian, King Naram-sin (Naram to Narain and Sin is the moon goddess, Chandra; possibly Narayan Chandra). Akkadian language, is itself implicated of being in cahoots with Sanskrit and Indus Valley languages – and the creation and spread of most modern languages. The Elam culture had a language which is similar to Dravidian languages. Elamites were founders of the first kingdom in the Iranian geography.Bas relief From Susan

The Greatest Chariot Battle In History

1301 BC. An Egyptian land army, numbering more than 20,000, (divided in 4 divisions) was raised. The leader – Pharoah Ramesses-II of the XIX Dynasty. They were out to punish a small kingdom of Hittites, for trying to lure Amuru, Egyptian vassals, to their side. Another force set sail, in ships, to reach Byblos and squeeze the Hittites in the world’s first pincer movement.

What followed was a historic chariot battle.

Peace broke when the queens of Hatti and Egypt, Puduhepa and Nefertari, both of Indo-Aryan extract and parentage, respectively, sent one another congratulatary gifts and letters. Over the next 15 years, they arrived at modus vivendi and drafted a peace treaty.

This peace treaty is the first in recorded history. A replica of this peace pact, in cuneiform tablet, found at Hattusas, Boghazkoi, hangs above the Security Council Chamber, United Nations, in New York, – a demonstration to modern nations the power of peace through international treaties.

Enter The Mittanis

One series are letters written by a Mittani king named Tushratta (meaning ” of splendid chariots”, similar to Dashratha meaning ” of ten chariots”) writes to his son-in-law, Amenhotep III, the king of Egypt ( the letter reads much like an Indian father-in-law’s letter will). Amenhotep married Tadukhepa, Tushratta’s daughter.

In these letters Tushrutta reminds Amenhotep, how his father, Thutmose IV had sought marriage seven times, with Tushrutta’s daughter, before this marriage to, Tadukhipa, was agreed upon.

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, Amenhotep-III who wanted to marry the Mittani (another Indic kingdom) princess, daughter of Dashratta (Tushrutta).

Similarly, in order to marry Hattusil II’s daughter, the Amorite King Putakhi agreed, in the treaty of alliance for a specific clause “to the effect that the sovereignty over the Amorite should belong to the son and descendants of his daughter for evermore”.

The daughter of King Artatama was married to Tuthmose IV, Akhenaten’s grandfather, and the daughter of Sutarna II (Gilukhipa, – “khipa” of these names is the Sanskrit “kshipa,” night) was married to his father, Amenhotep III (1390-1352 BC), the great temple builder (alike the focus on temple construction in South East Asia 1000 years later).

Queen Sitamen

Queen Sitamen

In his old age, Amenhotep wrote to Dasharatha many (7 requests are documented and evidenced) times wishing to marry his daughter, Tadukhipa. It appears that by the time she arrived Amenhotep III was dead. Tadukhipa married the new king Akhenaten and she became famous as the queen Kiya (short for Khipa).

What is it, about these Indic princesses, that made them so sought after?

Indic women and Political Power

Interestingly, most Indic countries have had women in political power – in the post WW2 nations. Srimavo Badranaike, Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Shaikh Hasina, Khalida Zia, Sukarnoputri, (not to forget Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Uma Bharathi) were amongst the first in the world to rule their countries. The three divas/devis of Indonesia are not a co-incidence. Aung San Suu Kyi is waiting in the wings to add to this list.

An all-time favorite is, of course, the USA without a woman President, Chief Justice. So, much for political opportunity in the land of the free!

Economic Power

India has the world’s largest private Indian gold reserves! And it is Indian women who have created, maintained these reserves over the centuries even to the amusement of the westerners. It is RBI’s failure that India has no financial instrument to make this gold, liquid, usable and empower India(n women).

Chinese Guanyin Figure

Chinese Guanyin Figure


The 2 most important festivals in India – Deepavali and Dusshera, are devoted to Lakshmi and Durga. Feminine goddesses. How many societies in the world have any female deities at all? Which society celebrates the biggest days in the year with female deities?

Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian archaeologist, an expert in 16 European languages, excavated sites of Vinca, Starcevo, Karanovo and Sesklo cultures. Based on some pioneering work, she suggested that Indo-European cultures have descended from matristic (not even matriarchal) cultures which also worshiped “mother goddess” or female deities – something which starts happening from Indic cultures only. The whole of West Asian, European cultures have no worship of any female deity. Interesting thing is the furore this has caused – How can We Europeans, be female worshipers? is the unspoken objection!

In China, it was Buddhism which enabled the introduction of a female deity, Guanyin (or Kuanyin, Kwan Yin, Miao Shan, 观音觀音), the Goddess of Mercy, in the Chinese pantheon. Though there are 4th century mentions of Guanyin, but it was only 14th century, during the Ming dynasty, that worship of Guanyin became popular.

Working Women

Amongst the poor and low income income families, women are in a position of power as they significant contributors to family income. Malnutrition amongst poor, exists – regardless of gender or age.

Amartya Sen highlights in his landmark study (Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation By Amartya Sen) about The Great Bengal Famine that “…for every dead woman there were nearly two dead men …” Sir Charles Elliot Famine Commissioner in Mysore in 1876 the general belief about Indian famines that “all authorities seem agreed that women succumb to famine less easily than men.”

However, it was by the beginning of 20th century, that the West put the Birkenhead Drill in place. First used by HMS Birkenhead, in 1852, it allowed orderly evacuation of women and children first. Over the next 50 years this became standard practice. In India, during famines, the old, the children and women were the last to be deprived. It was the men who paid the price.

Role Models

Indian texts, scriptures and classical litertaure has no negative characterisation for a wife – Mandodari, Ahalya, Sita, Draupadi, Kunti – the entire pantheon. The story of Kannagi’s fight for justice for her husband (from the classic Tamil play, Silappatikaram) is repeated in some part of South India, every day, even now, 2000 years later.

The Western frieze of mythical characters includes Delilah, Helen, Clytemnestra , Jezebel murderesses, adulteresses. The entire Greco-Roman frieze does not have a single positive characterisation of a wife.

Women are the source of all evil is current western concept – after all, Eve led Adam to his downfall from the Garden Of Eden. After a war with Midianites, Moses asked the Israelite army to kill all the women captives.

Moses blames the women – and an angry Moses tells the commanders

“of thousands and commanders of hundreds – who returned from the battle.”Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They (the women) were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” (Italics, emphasis, bold letters mine).

In India a Grihalakshmi can take her Pati Parmeshwar anywhere in life.

Universal Suffrage

Universal suffrage came to the USA, Britain, France, Belgium, Canada, Australia after a long struggle. The USA had to pass the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920; Italy in 1945; Canada in 1940; France gave women the right to vote in 1945; Switzerland in 1971 gave its women the right to vote in all elections.

These “advanced” countries, gave women the right to vote after a long struggle. In India, universal suffrage in 1950 started from the very first election in sovereign India. Without any female activism, Republican India had universal adult franchise from the very first day.

Education And Women

Indian women have been doctors, lawyers – and freedom fighters. The role of women like Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Nehru, Kasturba Gandhi’s Annie Beseant, Madam Cama is more famous than known.

An interesting insight on the role that Indian women are playing in education is highlighted in – “Postcolonialism, Feminism, and Religious Discourse” by Laura E. Donaldson, Pui-lan Kwok. Indian women have been in the vanguard of the Indian culture – Bharatnatyam, Classical Indian Music and Sanskrit. If Indian culture survives another 100 years, Indian Woman, you saved it.

In the explosive TV content sphere, it is a matter of interest that TV stars are women – and men seem to be playing a nominal role (of looking good; next to their women).

Indian Women & Fashion

Much to the grief of Luciano Bennetton, Indian women have not taken after western fashion – unlike Indian men. Indian women have changed their fashion sense – from very regional variations to the very pan-Indian salwar kameez. But Indian.

But 2300 years before Luciano Bennetton, when Alexander’s armies visited India, one of the few things they could take away were Indian clothes. Indian clothing became popular in Macedonia. The Macedonian national costume is the salvaria – which is the same as the salwar of the Indian North West. The entire North West Indian sub-continent, from Punjab to Afghanistan wears the salwar – which is tubular leggings.

This is a unisex garment – like the sari /dhoti also is. And popular all over India today. Unlike other parts of the world, where women were forced to conform to a male standards and prescriptions of dressing, Indian women were free and dressed like their men did (Feminists note – Indian men were forced to dress, like their women did, since you insist).

Unisex clothing, saris and dhotis dominate the Indian plains, and the salwars, in the North West mountain regions of Indian sub-continent. The Indo-Scythians used leather leggings – which were helpful in case of long marches on horse backs.

Criminals & Rape

While the press and activists beat their breasts about crimes against women, an interesting first hand insight that I can share. In Indian prisons, criminals and under-trials accused of rape are shunned by all other prisoners. They are not welcome in by other prisoners – in any any social activity. This is one crime that other criminals do not accept. However, much Indian films may show criminals targeting women, in reality, inside prison walls, criminals who have targeted women are not accepted.

Divide et impera

Indian women have a poor status in society – just like all other Indians. Period.

Indian society, due to economic poverty, political evolution, social changes has a long way to go before people (women, men and children) are treated right. Indian poli+bureau+crats are following their old colonial gurus and using ‘divide et impera’ divide and rule strategy. Further, western agenda, ideology, humungous funds drive many governmental programmes – which further creates false issues.

So, there are a myriad lost causes – child labour, dowry, poverty, backward classes, reservations, each one of which divides and gets lost in the “dreary desert sands”. Isolating “women’s” causes just furthers the date when everybody will get treated right. And that is my quarrel with all these sociologists, feminists, NGO groups who have serious misgivings about the status and empowerment of women in Indian society.

These misgivings – based on anecdotal evidence, ‘international’ (read as western) imagery and paradigms, social biases and prejudices completely miss the picture.

Post Script

Shobha Narayan, a columnist, wrote,

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Indian clothes are on the verge of dying out of corporate India. Sure, there are women executives who wear saris: ICICI’s Renuka Ramnath, Britannia’s Vinita Bali and HSBC’s Naina Lal Kidwai come to mind. In Bangalore, I am proud to say that prominent women such as Sudha Murthy and Rohini Nilekani don’t just wear Indian clothes, but bindis as well.

Unlike traditional Japanese attire such as the kimono, Indian clothes are wonderfully adaptable and comfortable. Nobody even knows what traditional Chinese clothing is. You have to go to Lijiang and Dali and observe pretty maidens from the Yi tribe in colourful red clothes to realize what China has lost in its race for economic prosperity at all costs

For my Delhi gig, I took the middle path, which I guess is the same as copping out. I wore Western clothes for one session and Indian clothes for another. I am not proud of my choice. I feel that I should have worn Indian clothes throughout, particularly in light of what I’ve just said. But cut me some slack, okay? It was my first presentation and I wanted to blend in.

Shoba Narayan has spent time in three countries – India, the United States and Singapore. After graduation, she enrolled as a Foreign Fellow at Mount Holyoke College where she majored in Fine Arts, focusing on welded steel sculptures. She went on to do five years of Art – three in graduate school in Memphis, and a summer at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont.

After marriage, … she attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism (J-school) and received a Master’s degree. She also won the Pulitzer Travelling Fellowship awarded to the top three students in each graduating class. Armed with the degree, she pursued a career in freelance journalism, writing for many publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Condenast Traveler, Time, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Saveur, Newsweek, Beliefnet and House Beautiful, among others. She also worked as a commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered Weekend.

Shoba’s first book, “Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes” was published in April 2003 by Random House. She lives in Bangalore, India with her husband and two daughters.

And no! Indian clothes (and whole parts of India) are not dying out, Shobha! There are Indian Women (many more like you) taking care of that! Thanks.

But a rare piece of journalism was recently in the Times Of India. Untouched by Western effacement of Indian alternatives, this post makes some interesting points about the role of Indian women in Indian politics.

“A patriarchal ethos dominates both the societies, American and Indian, but they operate in different ways. In India, despite the patriarchal ethos, powerful women leaders have emerged,” says political scientist Imtiaz Ahmed.

The most famous examples are BSP chief Mayawati and AIADMK head Jayalalitha. Both emerged from the shadow of iconic godfathers, to establish themselves as leaders with grassroots support.

Neerja Gopal Jayal, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s centre of law and governance points out that “Even at the panchayat level, we have had women from the member families being nominated. But the first time, patronage may work but not the second time. And this is true at the national level too.”

Clearly, the Indian system — or lack of it — gives space to those who have no political backing or godfathers. For every Jayalalitha, Sonia Gandhi or Sheila Dikshit, there is a Mamata Banerjee, Sushma Swaraj and Renuka Chaudhary.

Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research says, “What is unique to India, is the fact that women have the space to grow as leaders. Maybe, it has to do with our cultural ethos, where women are worshipped as goddesses.’’

More power to you Indian Woman.

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