MOTSAC
Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
July, 2017 Journals

The India-China Stand-off

The India-China stand-off at the Sikkim border bears enormous repercussions for South Asia. If India is able to consolidate its position and succeed in not bowing to Chinese pressure, it will not only be able to protect its border from Chinese encroachments but also put a viable resistance to Chinese plans of opening up a route through Pakistan occupied Kashmir. If India succumbs to Chinese pressure even in a honourable way, South Asia as a concept will have its viability weakened. Pakistan would take every advantage from that situation as it is now in the process of segregating itself from its former support-base, the USA and aligning fully with China.

The question is if China refuses to stop its road construction near the Sikkim border and the Indian army refusing to retreat, what kind of situation we would be facing. Even if China agrees to withdraw its plan of construction for the moment, can it be trusted? Any diplomatic truce with China should be concomitantly followed by increase of cultural and educational exchange with Chinese intelligentsia. The Chinese have a strong intellectual base and are very sensitive to cultural nuances (as evidenced in their overwhelming response to new generation Indian films). A consideration of these issues would go a long way to build-up a positive attitude in the long term. It would be naive to think that just at this moment India can bully China or that third party mediation would be without vested interests.

Date of Update: 25-Jul-17

 

June, 2017  

Indo-Pak Relations and China

Pakistan which was always a faithful ally of the USA seems to have abandoned its relations with its erstwhile mentor. This was inevitable after the international community expressed reservations about Pakistan providing safe haven to key perpetrators of global terrorism. However this has become a greater concern for India as Pakistan, after dissociating from the USA becomes increasingly linked with China. This dependence on China seems to be at its sycophantic best. There are already nearly a thousand Chinese companies in Pakistan and hundreds of Pakistani companies with Chinese directors. Professor S Akbar Zaidi, distinguished Pakistani economist has expressed concerns. He explained that for safeguarding the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor, China might prevail on Pakistan to avoid border strife as the passage to Central Asia needs optimum stability in the region. But at the same time this might encourage Pakistan to ignore India in economic and commercial transactions. This would be a great setback for South Asia , its peace, prosperity and development. Hopefully, a section of the Pakistani intellectual elite should wake up to the pitfalls of Pakistan becoming a satellite, albeit, a colony of China.

Date of Update: 24-Jun-17

 

May, 2017  

Burning Summer in South Asia

It has been a burning summer this may in South Asia. India fights Pakistan at the International Court of Justice over the case of Kulbushan Jadhav , sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court for alleged espionage, a claim strongly refuted by India. Though India had no alternative but to apply to the International court, the phenomenon betrays the legacy of the colonial hangover as we are not mature to resolve bilateral issues in the matrix of South Asia. Obviously this is to the advantage of China who seems to be hell-bent to break South Asian unity and integrity for short-term benefits. It is significant that for the first time, India has protested vociferously and publicly the One Belt One Road (OBOR) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which actually reflect the hegemonic ambitions of President XI Jinping who ostensibly appears to have consolidated more powers in his hands than Chairman Mao. In the midst of all these, it would be a great setback for South Asia and a travesty of Truth if SAARC loses its relevance. A SAARC without Pakistan would be a misnomer and reflect poorly on India’s diplomatic skills.

Date of Update: 25-May-17

 

April, 2017  

South Asia in April, 2017

The political scenario of South Asia, in the month of April, 2017, fluctuates in accordance to the summer heat that coupled with global warming gets worked up through multiplier effects. Kashmir is on the boil and there has been extensive disruption to the polling process marked by violence, stone-pelting by unruly mobs and indiscriminate firing by troops resulting in unfortunate deaths – too great a price for a single parliamentary bye-election where an abysmally low turn-out of voters signalled ominous trends for democracy. The India-Bangladesh talks took place with the visit of the Bangladesh Prime-Minister to Delhi but analysts feel that the failure of river-sharing arrangements did not cheer up matters. The USA dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, ostensibly to destroy bunkers and tunnels in the mountains used by Islamic State zealots but the significance might be more. Capping all these events is the sudden declaration by the Pakistan army that it would execute an Indian captive, Kulbhusan Jadhav for espionage though India vehemently denied that he is a spy and described the court-martial as a hoax. But what is intriguing is this declaration has been made not by the civilian government or its foreign office but by the military. Doubts have been raised that this might be a way in which not only India but primarily the civilian government in Pakistan is being blackmailed by the Pakistan military establishment. In fact, this perspective should be presented very forcefully to the global fraternity by India.

Date of Update: 18-Apr-17

 

March, 2017  

Apropos the Post-Truth World

In the backdrop of Brexit and the victory of Trump in US elections, Oxford dictionaries have coined a new term ‘POST-TRUTH’, an adjective denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotions or personal belief. The mainstream politics seems to have been slighted by online campaigns which allow the posting of controversial comments without bearing responsibility.

In a way, such a Post-Truth phenomenon seems to have been existing in South Asia, notably India, even before Brexit and Trump. It can be presumed that like England and USA, India also has democracy where ultimately there can be auto-balancing of rational and emotional elements so that there is every chance of the Post-Truth world being surpassed by a Post Post-Truth era. Yet even during that time enormous damages can occur. In England, it could be economic imbalances; in USA it could be racial prejudices but in India it could be more serious. The very Constitution of the Republic that upholds the unitary fabric of a highly pluralistic and variegated society would get disrupted leading to chaos and separatist elements could play havoc. Let us hope that the Higher Consciousness that surpasses both reason and emotion should come forward like a beacon light and save the day.

Date of Update: 27-Mar-17

 

February, 2017  

Resurgence of Imperial Mind-Set

In his socio-psychological treatise, The Ideal of Human Unity, penned exactly a hundred years back, Sri Aurobindo had repeatedly stressed on the consequences if the imperialistic mind-set had a resurgence. Many scholars wondered the utility of such discourse in the second decade of twentieth century when the passing away of imperialism was looming in the horizon. But imperialism as a political establishment is different from imperialism as a political mind-set. Such a mind-set can manifest in a democratic or a socialistic set up because after all, the human nature is unpredictable. Already after a hundred years, the new political equations that are surfacing after President Trump assumed power shows a mighty conflict in making among the three imperialistic mind-sets dominating the USA, Russia and China. Thus South Korea which has always been a US ally is being pressurized by China to oppose the deployment of the US made missile shield (named Thaad). In what seems a retaliatory measure, China has forced Hyundai Motors headquartered in South Korea to postpone the launch of the Hyundai Sonata Plug-In hybrid which was expected to be in April, 2017. Hyundai now intends to replace the South Korean batteries in the Sonata by Chinese made ones as a placating measure.

This is just the beginning. No one knows the implications of the New Silk Road that utilizes The Pakistani port, Gwadar and the imminent dispute in the South China Sea. The conflict between European Union and Trump may become bitter for the latter’s stand on immigration, global warming and encouragement of white nationalism. The European Left is happy as Trump’s activities are in a way against globalization. With elections in key European nations knocking around the corner, the non-left European parties are not amused. These happenings are going to affect global trading transactions and South Asia, notably India, will feel the punch.

Professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann (The Statesman, 17th February,2017) explains that Imperial geopolitics is back with a vengeance. How a developing country like India with strong cultural roots can wriggle through the conflicts of imperialistic mind-sets of the USA, Russia and China is to be seen.

Date of Update: 18-Feb-17

 

January, 2017  

India-USA-Russia

It will be a razor’s edge for Indian diplomatic ropewalk in the Post-Obama period. The growing co-operation between India and the USA has to be balanced with India-Russia relations which seem not to be in perfect order. Both USA and Russia have different priorities to be worked out for China. Russia would naturally be careful because of its declining presence in Central Asia. The USA is more interested to counter global terrorism while Russia supports it with a motivation to emerge as the global leader to solve any international crisis. China also has the ambition to be the supreme global leader. Things are complicated because both Trump and Putin are difficult to deal with; the former because of his volatility, the latter because of his stubbornness. It is a challenge for the Indian government to balance the three powers to remain a relevant player in the international scene.

Date of Update: 25-Jan-17

 

December, 2016  

De-monetization - need to address crisis in food-supply

A lot of controversies have surfaced following the de-monetization that is at present plaguing the Indian economic scenario. Hopes have been raised that black money would be recovered, counterfeit circulation would wane, the terrorists would face fund-crunches and the country would very quickly shift to the digital mode. However a great practical problem looms in the rural horizon which urbanites would not appreciate so soon. The selling price of crops has fallen down and the farmer not only faces lack of profit but also the inability to start fresh cultivation that needs to be sustained by hard cash. If this trend continues, there is every possibility of a threat of a severe food shortage that if unchecked can reach to the magnitude of the great famine in China. Such an eventuality should not be allowed .The government must step in to forestall any such imbroglio and this intervention must be done on a war-footing.

Date of Update: 26-Dec-16

 

November, 2016  

Cashless Transaction and Jobless Manufacturing

The sudden programme of demonetization that has shocked India should be analyzed in the background of jobless manufacturing that looms in the horizon with robots waiting in the flanks to do away with human employment as far as possible. One can justifiably argue that though the pains of demonetization are hurting now, in the long run it would usher the era of digitalization much earlier than expected leading to the opening of new frontiers. One can also argue that 70% of powerloom units have shut down due to lack of cash in Bhiwandi and Malegaon which holds 55% of the powerlooms in India and this would take a long time to recover. If this recovery could take more than one year, then would the recovered units find it viable to re-employ retrenched workers or would they utilize robots? After all, one robot could replace more than a dozen human employees. And presumably robots would be programmed for all things except forming trade unions! Would a combination of cashless transaction and jobless manufacturing lead to a triumph of Neo-Capitalism and sound the death knell for socialistic paradigms?

It is too early to guess answers. One can only hope in the Aurobindonian parlance that Knowledge and Willed Action have to be progressively harmonized for ushering a new world-order. There is an implicit asymmetry between Knowledge and Will; either a strong willed person or action is not backed by the appropriate wisdom-base or a wise decision remains theoretical or limited in scope in the absence of any willed effectuation. The Time-Spirit presses for an increasing harmony between Knowledge and Will so that we can facilitate progress without obliterating the subjects for whom the progress is intended.

Date of Update: 28-Nov-16

 

October, 2016  

Surgical Strikes and Track II Diplomacy

The recent attack on an Indian military camp in Kashmir by terrorists from across the border followed by surgical strikes effectuated by the Indian army beyond the LOC purportedly demolishing some terrorist-bases and killing a number of terrorists have received attention all over the world. This attention was made possible by frantic efforts of Indian diplomats for the past few weeks to isolate the Pakistan government at an international level for harbouring terrorism. However all such tactics, diplomatic and military, by the Indian State should not stop all efforts in Track II diplomacy between citizens and professional groups in both India and Pakistan. The government of Pakistan should not be equated with the citizens of Pakistan. True democracy does not exist in Pakistan but the spirit of democracy can always be imbibed by saner individuals in that country. If Track II diplomacy is allowed to continue, the saner voices in that country will themselves come forward to protest against the State’s policy of harbouring militants. Such a situation did happen a few days back and the journalist of the prestigious newspaper, Dawn, was castigated for publishing it. Yet the whole international community and the management of Dawn itself stood to support the young journalist. If Track II diplomacy continues, such incidents will become increasingly common. It is not enough to isolate Pakistan at a global level which any way is difficult to achieve as long as both India and Pakistan purchase fire-arms from elite countries. It is more important to isolate the Pakistani establishment from Pakistanis themselves.

Date of Update: 24-Oct-16

 

September, 2016  

After Uri

The mayhem at the army base in Uri this month when unsuspecting Indian soldiers were caught off guard to die at the hands of a suicide squad of terrorists purportedly for their motivated agenda for Kashmir has brought in new equations. There has been a hue and cry all over India for a retaliatory lesson though it is doubtful if USA would support India crossing the Line of Control. A saner reaction has been India’s attempt to isolate Pakistan globally on the diplomatic front. Given Pakistan’s track record, this attempt would yield dividends. Yet the attempt of isolating Pakistan would, despite having international repercussions, change little of the ground reality. What is needed in addition is a strong pitch for establishing true democracy in Pakistan where the civilian government is no more a puppet regime fostered by the whims and dictates of the Army. This issue assumes great relevance if we consider the weird and almost insane interpretations of the Uri imbroglio reported in the Pakistan media. There were even suggestions that the attacks were self-inflicted by the Indian Army to drive a wedge between the Sikhs and the Muslims. One wonders whether the whole of the Pakistan media has to pay obeisance to the Pakistan Army or whether each and every media person has been radicalized against India – a statistically non-viable position because exceptions usually prove the rule. It is only a true democracy, even if bourgeois, that accommodates dissenting voices, encourages critical appraisals and allows the general public to cross-check facts. Moreover democracies usually do not fight with each other. This is partly because the escalations of conflicts can get constrained by multiple view-points and partly because the bourgeois managing democracies are more interested in not losing commercial gains and in not exhausting hard-earned capital. The installation of true democracy in Pakistan would also enhance the formation of a South Asian Confederation that can alone bring peace and prosperity to the subcontinent.

Date of Update: 24-Sep-16

 

August, 2016  

Pakistan, Nepal and India

Two important events in the last month have important bearings for the future of South Asian solidarity. Firstly there was the rather unexpected cold response to the Indian Home Minister by his counter-part in Pakistan, something unbecoming in the very soil where Alexander the Great exchanged honour and chivalry with his captive and enemy, King Porus; something unsavoury in a culture from where the world learnt the spiritual essence of hospitality. Secondly the ascent of the Maoist leader Prachanda to the premier’s throne in Nepal at a time when his predecessor, Mr. Oli had ostensibly edged up to China in order to snub India raised genuine concerns as it sought to underplay the cultural continuity between Nepal and India. What is the need of the hour is maturity and restraint by India, the bigger player in South Asia so that the forthcoming SAARC summit in November at Islamabad does not suffer the disruption in a way the European Union recently suffered at the hands of Brexit. There is the past history of Pakistan walking away from the Commonwealth in an act of utmost childishness and the onus is on India that such exits do not occur and the South Asian solidarity and harmony become the main objectives.

Date of Update: 11-Aug-16

 

July, 2016  

Federalism in India

With the growth of regional political parties in contemporary India, the demand of a true federalism has been increasingly vocal and the possibility of a federal front comprised chiefly of regional parties has started looming on the horizon with the plea that strong States (Indian provinces) can make a strong Centre. While this is a truly idealistic statement the crude fact remains that any coalition of parties that come to rule at the Centre may also run the risk of behaving with non-federal authoritarianism. This would be possible due to the inherent quality of Parliamentarism which even with splendid safeguards can do little to counter the mediocrity of elected representatives. Perhaps a more rational solution would be a shift to the Presidential system which would presumably give a better chance to federalism while being a true reflection of the mandate of the entire country. Significantly, both Rabindra Nath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo had favoured a Presidential system for India. This is a serious issue that needs to be debated throughout the country.

Date of Update: 23-Jul-16

 

June, 2016  

Brexit and the cause of Global Unity

The recent referendum (Brexit) that has opted for Britain’s exit from the European Union has been a retrograde step which has done considerable damage to the cause of global unity. As early as 1916, Sri Aurobindo had written an insightful chapter titled ‘The United States of Europe’ where he had previsioned the formation of the European Union as an essential step towards the world unity which idealists have always dreamt about. World Unity is too complex a thing to be achieved at one click of a mouse; regional conglomerates are stepping stones towards that goal. There is justifiably great concern about the economic consequences but of greater magnitude is that it sets an example to centrifugal, disruptive forces in every nation and regional confederates and every international body dealing with every possible thing under the sun. Local factors like sub-nations and clans, local dialects, religious zealots and ethnic influences can raise their ugly heads in the pretext of the right of self-determinations for such forces need to be voluntarily transcended for the greater cause of global unity.

In retrospect, there was no need to call for a referendum. Foreign affairs and international treaties are too sophisticated to be dealt by all and sundry, they need expertise to be handled. In a democracy citizens vote for leaders who are expected to act as statesmen and visionaries and have been given the responsibility to take correct decisions on behalf of the public. True, one single politician cannot always be a know-all but at least can attempt to garner the wisdom of the right experts. If leaders lack statesmanship, should all the citizens take on-line administrative decisions without any experience of administration? Rather than resigning because his gambit failed, the British premier should have resigned prior to the referendum citing lack of foresight; this would have served a greater cause and set a global example.

Date of Update: 28-Jun-16

 

May, 2016  

India and Iran

Perhaps the Indian Premier’s visit to Iran in May,2016 is more significant than many of his much-hyped foreign trips or his rather impulsive visit to Pakistan. It is very necessary that India as a fulcrum of South Asia must balance the Islamic world on its West with the Mongolian races on the other side. With the relations with China being marked with uncertainty and the relations with Pakistan bordering on distrust, an amicable relation with Iran, especially after the Western sanctions were lifted from Iran, is absolutely necessary to maintain the power balance. The fact that Iran has agreed that India would develop the Chabahar Port is of strategic importance given the hard reality that China has been developing the nearby Gwadar Port of Pakistan. The concomitant agreement to develop transit corridors connecting Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics bypassing Pakistan would be a boost to secure energy imports by India. The anti-Taliban stance of Iran in a world-stage where ISIS is spreading its tentacles would be a great boost to India’s own image as a viable player in South Asian affairs. This visit by the Indian Premier now needs to be consolidated by regular follow-ups.

Date of Update: 26-May-16

 

April, 2016  

Jihadists and South Asia

It is interesting that more than a third of graduates joining radical jihadist groups like the ISIS are engineering graduates. A lot of psychological probing is being done to understand what is common between the jihadist subculture and the engineering mind-set. One thing however stands out clear. The engineer is motivated for completing tasks at hand. This is the mind-set that appeals to the jihadist. Any resistance must be ruthlessly finished and if even an unwilling mother of their own fighter expresses concern, she has to be summarily executed.

Does that mean that the engineer’s mind-set is always a problem? Not if it is backed by a cultural heritage and a cultivation of aesthetics. Because of its cultural heritage, South Asia has not been a happy recruiting ground for jihadists. Because of its cultivation of arts and aesthetics, even engineering students of India are not easy bets for jihadists. Indeed many engineering campuses of India are great votaries of performing arts. Perhaps engineering students need to strengthen their aesthetics faculties to move towards a global mind-set. South Asia with its cultural heritage can lead the way.

Date of Update: 21-Apr-16

 

March, 2016  

Nepal and South Asia

When North Korea invaded South Korea on the 25th of June, 1950; Sri Aurobindo was quick to react within three days (on 28th June, 1950) that as extension of this conflict, Communist China would now acquire Tibet and then proceed to Indian borders. When this apprehension was proved true in 1962, President Kennedy was surprised as it was visualized by someone who had departed in 1950 itself! It is a sad commentary on the mind-set of Indian politicians that Sri Aurobindo’s apprehension was never heeded. Instead generations of Indian foreign policy-makers have conveniently made a mess of affairs that have always put the consolidation of South Asia to back foot. The latest example has been the failure to have Nepal’s confidence even after Nepal’s Prime Minister visited India. This is specially anguishing that the visit came soon after the episode of blockade of essential commodities at the Nepal-India border which was widely perceived in Nepal as a fall-out of India’s big brotherly attitude. China has quickly taken the advantage of building bridges with Nepal with the drafting of a transit and transportation treaty whereby China would extend the Tibet rail link to Nepal, ostensibly to stabilize Nepal’s economy. But a development of Nepal’s economy without a broader South Asian contribution would be destabilizing for the sub-continent for two important reasons. Firstly, citizens of Nepal and India are bound by culture, tradition and religion and there are lakhs of Nepalese scattered throughout India in all sorts of jobs. Ignoring Indian concerns would have an adverse impact on this sensitive fact. Secondly, in the name of economic development, the transit agreement would facilitate all sorts of forces aimed to destabilize any South Asian consolidation which is now at a nascent stage. The Indio-Nepal issue has to be amicably worked upon for the cause of South Asia.

Date of Update: 24-Mar-16

 

February, 2016  

February in Bangladesh

The month of February has always heralded a historic spring in Bangladesh. In the erstwhile East Pakistan, it was a cultural spring with blood of young students sacrificed at the altar for claiming the mother tongue, Bengali to be reinstated from the clutches of fundamentalist zealots who had the perverted notion that Urdu was the only medium to salvation. The martyrs of February 21st, 1952 did not have their sacrifice wasted as their dream came true in 1956 with the relenting of the governmental authorities. However their sacrifice was immortalized when UNESCO declared 21st February to be the International Mother Language Day (Interestingly, The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram has her birthday on 21st February which is considered auspicious for the New Age and her Supramental Realization actually occurred on February 29th, 1956 which in the annals of mysticism is considered to be the confirmatory indicator of a futuristic Age of Perfection of all human aspirations).

In modern Bangladesh, a new socio-cultural spring was ushered on February 5th, 2013 with the launching of the Shahbag uprising demanding capital punishment for war criminals during the Bangladesh Liberation War and banning of the fundamentalist outfit, Jamaat-e- Islami from politics. The movement could not keep its momentum and though in a way it paved the way for executions of war criminals of yesteryears found guilty of exterminating the intelligentsia, it has not been able to change the mind-set of the contemporary gruesome killers of secular bloggers. There will be interesting academic debates to analyze why the movement faded away. However if certain things fade away from the public memory, one need not be disheartened for the very initiation of such innovative movements have historical value that remains in the consciousness of the race. It has to manifest perhaps in new denouements in new times.

Taking up this cue, it can also be postulated that in the South Asian psyche which is entrenched in spirituality, it would be difficult to counter fundamentalism with the concept of secularism as is prevalent in materialistic cultures. Rather, fundamentalism has to be countered by a movement that rises from the annals of spirituality per se to be acceptable to the masses. That is why instead of harping on the social idea of secularism; Sri Aurobindo preferred to use the concept of a psychological unity of mankind with spiritual roots to foster the rise of internationalism that would automatically take care of disruptive trends like fundamentalism.

Date of Update: 19-Feb-16

 

January, 2016  

The Republic Day in India, 2016

The presence of the French President Francois Hollande at the Indian Republic day parade and extravaganza of 2016 along with the participation of French troops is unique at this point in time when both France and India have witnessed the worst attacks by Islamic terrorists. Critics have pointed that the main interest is over the Rafale deal which Hollande needs but this would matter little in the larger context. A confluence of Indian and Western interests to combat terrorism is the need of the hour and that message has been amply conveyed. India now needs to consolidate this position from poise of strength that emanates not from obstinate diplomacy with Islamic terror-based outfits but from a mature relation with Western countries.

Date of Update: 28-Jan-16

 

December, 2015  

Nepal and the Madhesi crisis

The ongoing crisis in Nepal where the Madhesis, the original inhabitants of the Terai feel marginalized in the new constitution has grave implications for South Asia. Attempts have always been made since the days of the Crown by clever measures to reduce the Madhesi population at the cost of the hill people and by denying entry of the Madhesis to civil services and higher echelons of power and education. All this has been possible because the Nepalese authorities knew that if denied facilities, the Madhesis would be driven to seek jobs in India which actually happened. The present outrage of the Madhesis expressed through blocking entry of essential items from India was sought to be countered by the Nepalese administration in two ways. Firstly a malicious and false propaganda was spread that India was enforcing economic blockade. Secondly, a tie-up with China to supply 1000 tonnes of fuel was made so that India could pressurize Madhesis to give up their blockade. Neither tactic seems to have succeeded. The Madhesis burnt Chinese flags and only 12 trucks of Oil could come from China. The situation has become complicated as Pakistan and China have supported the new constitution considered flawed by the Madhesis, ostensibly to embarrass India. One might predict that if the situation does not improve and the ongoing dialogue between the Nepal government and Madhesis do not fruitfully materialize, the right of self-determination of the Madhesis can go to any extent including demand of full autonomy of the Terai. The Madhesis are related to their Indian counterparts in blood and culture and any solution has to be sincerely sought by Nepal in the context of South Asia, not by diplomatic balancing tricks with China.

Date of Update: 24-Dec-15

 

November, 2015  

Terrorism and Exclusivism

The deadly attack of fanatical Islamic terrorists in the citadel of the world’s culture, Paris, leaving scores of youth dead seems now to lead to a new war of gigantic proportions between the Western World and the dreamland Caliphate of Islamic terrorism. If indeed a full-scale war breaks out, the whole world will feel its ripples .South Asia would be poised for a greater effect as it would be affected not only by the ensuing economic onslaught but also by the emerging cultural onslaught. If a war really breaks in full rage, then what would be actually blamed in the final analysis would be the tendency of exclusivism in thought. Exclusivism in thought translates as dogmatism which then becomes the breeding ground of fundamentalism. Religions promote dogmatism, philosophies promote dogmatism and one might not be wrong in assuming that communism as creed smacks too of dogmatism. There is of course one silver lining amidst the current imbroglio. If the reign of true exclusivism ends, true spirituality would arise – a spirituality that is expressed in ever-expanding vistas of consciousness. True spirituality is beyond rituals, rites, dogmas, schools; beyond all partisan theories and exclusive ideas; it is a quest for an all-embracing Consciousness that alone has the power to lift the human being to its full potential. It sounds impractical today but Sri Aurobindo explains that ‘the argument of improbability is of very little value. What the practical man of today denies as absurd and impracticable is often enough precisely the thing that future generations set about realizing and eventually in some form or other succeed in bringing into effective existence’(Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 465).

Date of Update: 28-Nov-15

 

October, 2015  

Political Short-sightedness

Sri Aurobindo had strongly pleaded to the Congress to accept the Cripp’s proposals in 1942 as this would have been a golden opportunity to avoid partition of the subcontinent. The short-sighted Congress leaders never saw the truth behind that advice. After the Cripp’s proposals were rejected, the Cabinet mission of 1946 came with a yet better proposal which Sri Aurobindo had heartily welcomed and pleaded to Congress politicians to accept with certain modifications as again this would ensure the integrity of the subcontinent. The Congress again turned a blind eye and sought a partition which has only been followed by escalating bloodshed, mindless terrorism and unending misery.

The recent incident in Mumbai when an unwelcome skirmish marred the book release of the former Pakistan foreign minister, Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri, is significant for the unexpected right wing reasction. However what has got unnoticed is Kasuri’s revelation that Jinnah had accepted the Cabinet Mission which Congress had rejected. It seems that Jinnah was more receptive to Sri Aurobindo’s vision. If only Congress leaders had not been short-sighted, history would have been different.

Date of Update: 16-Oct-15

 

September, 2015  

ISIS and the global youth mind-set

The ISIS today cannot be just dealt with as if it is only a menace of Islamic terrorism; it represents an actual civilizational crisis, something of a kind and magnitude never witnessed before in the annals of history. It is not only Muslims killing non-Muslims, it is also Muslims killing Muslims, Muslims killing the best of Islamic minds, Muslims destroying what Muslims themselves had preserved as cultural heritage, Muslims destroying that value called faith of which Islam itself has been the best example in encouragement of complete and unquestioned submission to the Divine.

That the crisis has cut across religions and races is obvious and the campaigns and the revealing and the beheadings aired by the ISIS in the social media have not necessarily been horrific for all and sundry; they have in a certain way appealed to a section of the global youth and beckoned them for a real-life adventure that rings with the magical lure of the unknown and unexpected. And educated youth of the Western world and of other places and belonging to different cultures and religions have been attracted. The recent incident of finding an educated Indian young lady of Hindu origin being influenced by the ISIS has raised eyebrows but is not surprising as what has been affected is a portion of the global youth mind-set that transcends religious, cultural and ethnic barriers.

The question is why has even a section of the global youth mind-set been drawn to this miss-venture? If the social media has been an instrument of influencing that mind-set, why cannot the social media provide an alternative source of inspiration which disallows youth to seek such horrific outlets? Is it because the social media is a storehouse of information and a link to perversion without any high ideal, without any noble thought, without any red-hot inspiration that galvanises the youth? Youth represents outrageousness, energy, risk, rebellion and revolution, youth represents the quest of the unknown, youth represents our aspiration, and youth represents our future. They are not to be castigated or counselled by rationalists, they need a passionate call of lofty idealism, a call for a battle that lifts all to Utopia; if appealed in the right spirit, they will never let us down. After all, it was the proud and outlandish Kurdish youth of Kobani who braved the ISIS onslaught to stand upright even when 70% of the city was destroyed; it was the media who took months to report that valiant event which if telecast when the beheadings were displayed could have carried different repercussions.

Date of Update: 25-Sep-15

 

August, 2015  

Make Myanmar a SAARC Nation!

The greatest disruptive menace in South Asia today is undoubtedly terrorism. Terrorism in contemporary times is a veritable industry and its sustenance needs always fresher pastures. For some time it succeeds in certain fronts but in accordance with the law of Nature, all obstacles to the unity of mankind must always wither away and hence the Devil, not to be outdone, seeks newer avenues. After trying out all channels and realizing that the game may not be sustained forever, terrorism has caught hold of a new channel to play havoc in South Asia – the Rohingyas along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. The Rohingyas are a disgruntled lot since the 2012 riots with the Buddhists in the disturbed state of Rakhine. Subir Bhaumik in the Telegraph, Calcutta (11th August, 2015) reports the disturbing news that Hafiz Saeed, the LeT Chief has been constantly raising the issue of the plight of Rohingyas in different forums, clearly, an indication of a fresh terror outlet that would be simultaneously disastrous for Myanmar, Bangladesh and India.

It is the most opportune time to declare Myanmar a SAARC nation so that the war against South Asian terrorism attains a new dimension. Excluding Myanmar from SAARC makes South Asian unity incomplete and weak. Myanmar is an extension of the psyche that prevails in the subcontinent and The Mother at Pondicherry was emphatic that Burma (Myanmar) should be an integral part of a great Asian federation with India and not China as a pivot. We have too long ignored the aspirations of Myanmar’s youth when they looked at us for help from a repressive regime, we have forgotten our ancient links with Myanmar, we have ignored the fact that Myanmar is fundamentally incorporated in the history, culture and psyche of the subcontinent. It is high time to rectify that shortcoming and incorporate Myanmar as a SAARC nation before China takes advantage and the LeT spells havoc.

Date of Update: 13-Aug-15

 

July, 2015  

Death Sentence for Terrorists

Does a death sentence have its desired effect to stem the tide of terrorism? For an Islamic jihadist who has been brainwashed to be a terrorist, death is a supreme sacrifice at the Almighty’s altar. If he dies while engaged in what would be viewed by the world at large as one on the most horrendous acts, he serves his God. If he is caught and sentenced to the gallows, he has even a more exalted death and a higher berth in heavenly worlds. He is not a loser under any circumstance. To his own folk, he becomes a martyr and a model who inspires others to tread the same adventurous path. The very word ‘terrorism’ rings with adventure and challenge, rebellion and battle. Thus the hanging of a terrorist does not serve any ostensible purpose. On one had it confirms Bernard Shaw’s aphorism that assassination on the scaffold is the worst form of assassination as there it is done with the consent of mankind. On the other hand, it is a known occult knowledge that the vital forces which are behind assassinations can take leave of the perpetrator once the act has been committed to get hold of other vulnerable perpetrators setting up a vicious cycle. Moreover, Islam is a religion of force and strength which was a historical necessity at its inception as it had to complement the Christian gospel of love that had become ineffective. Hence, trying to show strength to those who swear in the name of Islam would be counter-productive.

The reasonable solution for ensuring peace and harmony in the South Asian context would be to have a realignment of South Asian nations, an open confederation, a free grouping of organic societies, a freedom to pursue education in its most universal dimension, an opening of borders, a facilitation for mutual exchange and enrichment; terrorism would then be contained automatically and the energy of adventure sublimated through cultural routes.

Date of Update: 27-Jul-15

 

June, 2015  

June, 2015 – Salt and Sugar: a hectic month in South Asia

The month of June, 2015 has been a significant month in South Asia. Firstly, there was the visible concord and harmony when the Indian Prime Minister and his team visited Bangladesh and settled the long pending issue of exchanging enclaves where subjects were not citizens of any country for over half a century. The presence of the West Bengal Chief Minister at the program provided a boost to the Bengali psyche which is perhaps emotionally more surcharged than any other human collectivity. Secondly, the successful initiative of initiating the International Yoga Day, that too on 21st June, the longest day of the year, was widely applauded and celebrated all over the globe. Thirdly, to add salt to sugar, June witnessed the dirt and filth emanating from a nexus that had its origin in the blatant commercialization of cricket. Such an eventuality was expected; it is surprising it took so long to manifest. However politics in sports is an international issue and the crisis cannot be contained locally, it has to be viewed from a global perspective. Settling scores over one another would have a limited value, formulating a global line of action to cleanse sports is the necessity of the hour. Long back, when the Olympics flag was designed, The Mother had explained that though the five rings were designed to represent the five continents, it was unfortunate that the central ring that upheld the others was black; it signalled the degradation of sports in the muddy pool of politics. She had expressed the aspiration that one day; the black ring would be replaced by a white ring that would signal the elevation of sports to its true consciousness. This is something that needs to be worked out at the international level. Short cut local measures to curb the vice in sports would not yield tangible results unless complemented by global action and consensus.

Date of Update: 29-Jun-15

 

May, 2015  

Prime Minister Modi’s China Visit

Dealing with ambivalence in a counseling session is a most challenging and yet a very delicate affair where one has to deal with equal intensities of acceptance and rejection, love and hatred, compassion and anger. Imagine if this challenge is projected at the international level where ambivalence has to be worked through between nations and States. Relations between India and China depend on how leaders of both countries resolve such ambivalence, built up through years. Issues of trade imbalances, disputes over the border, anguish over stapled visas, anticipations about new routes to Pakistan and Nepal – all these can be relegated to a secondary importance if visionaries of both countries appreciate the deeper psychological need of working through ambivalence. For unity and harmony are basically psychological issues, they arise because there is a veiled but patent unitary matrix of soul-substance from where diversity arises, they need to be probed at a deeper level of consciousness after all our logical efforts have been exhausted.

It is interesting to recall Sri Aurobindo’s veridical statement that God, Light, Freedom and Immortality cannot be subdued, and they rebound again and again with yet greater potency. The spiritual vacuum left by Communism in China beckons the Light from India and Modi’s short overtures to Buddhist monks in China as well as in Mongolia, his ability to have a yoga meet organized in China, his encouragement for a centre of Gandhian studies have suddenly led to a new opening. It is natural that the spiritual Light that can be most receptive in China can come from India from where once Buddhism had penetrated the East. The Mother had pointed out that India is destined to be the spiritual leader of the world. If this is true, once the Light has its access in China and Mongolia as it did in the past but this time with a greater integralist world-view, other material issues will be solved automatically and amiably. As Sri Anirvan, considered to be the last intellectual Baul of the modern age had explained that the magic of spirituality was that as one enters deep in the realms of consciousness, the outer issues can take care of themselves. What is true of individual endeavour is also true at the level of the collective psyche.

Date of Update: 25-May-15

 

April, 2015  

Apropos National Flags and Political Maturity

A separatist leader was released from jail by the new State government in Kashmir evoking strong sentimental reactions from myriad quarters. In the melee, a Pakistani national Flag was flown in Indian soil provoking governmental reaction. In retaliation, an Indian national flag was trampled in Pakistan. In the aftermath, a 15years old boy was shot down during a demonstration in the Kashmir valley. It is South Asian solidarity that is compromised while ego-conflicts go on unabated and the poor national flags become helpless victims. Who is to be blamed? Blaming one or the other can go on ad infinitum but does not solve the problem and only hardens the ego. Perhaps blaming objective systems may not yield results. Blaming a subjective phenomenon may sound chimerical but would be more practical. It is actually a subjective factor that needs to be understood and worked through. It is the political maturity of the subcontinent that needs to be addressed. Some maturity has indeed developed in the Indian side of the valley with the vibrant participation of the electorate in the democratic process and in the coming together of divergent forces that hitherto had distrust for each other to form a coalition government in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This political maturity has to be now used as a template for a further growth in collective consciousness. It is only by an increasing political maturity that the like of the chain of events that happened in the Kashmir valley during the last fortnight can be averted. We can make a start by spreading the message of a South Asian alignment and ergo! We can jolly well have all schools in a South Asian nation to hoist the flag of not only its own but the flags of all other South Asian nations. Children would be delighted, and it would initiate lessons in history and geography! Let us give less explicit importance to the skirmishes and more importance to the innovative methods at all levels of the population and across all strata of the society to increase our political maturity.

Date of Update: 23-Apr-15

 

March, 2015  

Of Cricket and Diplomacy

Two interesting events in the South Asian context deserve attention this month. The first is a cricketing controversy. In an age of globalization, it seems that cricket is one of the few areas left where nationalism can hinge itself. A South Asian nation defeated another South Asian nation in the World Cup staged in a different continent with one of the neutral umpires hailing from a third South Asian nation being accused of faulty umpiring. Things took an ugly turn when this accusation became a political instead of technical issue. The end-result is a mob outrage where the only subject victimized is neither the player nor the umpire but South Asian harmony. We still seem to lack the political maturity which Europe has for no conflict over football among European nations disrupts European harmony.

The second event worth mentioning is the awkward situation faced by an Indian Minister who was till recently the Chief of the Indian army, when he attended the Pakistan High Commission on the occasion of Pakistan’s Republic Day to find himself in the company of separatist Kashmiri leaders. It was more awkward as Pakistan itself could not muster courage to celebrate its own Republic Day for many years due to its own separatist and disruptive elements. Here also, it would have been politically more mature for the Indian Government to send instead of the Ex-Chief of Army any other representative who had earlier participated in inter-country dialogues with Pakistan. Even if the present ruling dispensation in New Delhi which is not yet a year old did not have any such experienced politician (an army general is not expected to be a politician in spirit and temper), it could have sent someone from the Opposition who was conversant with inter-country dialogues. Such occasions need to be faced above all partisan attitudes.

Date of Update: 27-Mar-15

 

February, 2015  

A Loss for The Cause of South Asia

The sudden demise of Rajinder Puri, legendary columnist and cartoonist at one of the most crucial periods of India’s political history that is claimed to be a complete departure from the Nehruvian era and thus virtually a ‘second republic’ will be very much missed by all serious students of the Indian polity. His incisive comments on contemporary happenings assumed significance as he was not only a witness but a participant of the shifting strands in Indian politics for nearly five decades. But what is a real loss is that he was one of the very few voices who grasped and expressed the full significance of a South Asian Confederation, had an intimate knowledge that spanned from the rough terrains of Afghanistan to the suppressed realities of Myanmar, from the advances of China to the hesitant steps of the Indian political establishment. His emphasis on a realignment of forces in South Asia needs to be taken up very seriously in contemporary Indian journalism which unfortunately is more obsessed with the glamorous and the mundane. This assumes significance at a time when the US President independently reminds India of enforcing religious harmony as a dependent variable for India’s progress, a concern which Sri Aurobindo had explicitly expressed on the eve of Indian Independence. It is a sad commentary on Indian journalism that while eulogizing or criticizing the US President, nobody remembers Sri Aurobindo’s warning issued in 1947 itself.

Date of Update: 20-Feb-15

 

January, 2015  

The US President in India

The US President’s visit to India to grace the 66th Republic Day parade as the chief guest has important implications for South Asia. It comes especially at a junction in history where Islamic terrorism has reached new heights with the ISIS in Asia, the Boko Haram in Africa and the Charlie Hebdo killings in Europe. Besides there is Pakistan who simultaneously enjoys US patronage and suffers US drone attacks, a testimony to the dual foreign pursued by the USA. Presumably there were two reasons for USA’s policy towards Pakistan. Firstly, Pakistan’s collaboration was usually sought for anti-terror help. Secondly, the USA wanted to balance India with Pakistan for geo-political advantage. This added to the mistrust between India and USA that has existed since 1947 when the Indian intellectual elite had more leanings towards Russia and the European Left. These equations have started changing with China poised to be the second superpower and Pakistan losing hold on Islamic terrorists who now both think and act globally. It is therefore significant that the USA President’s visit has signaled the end of the mistrust between India and USA and this new bondage is important for both South Asia and the world political scenario at large.

The end of the mistrust and the new bondage is more important than treaties and pacts. It is more important to sign a treaty from a poise of trust, strength and honour. The US President’s visit at this juncture gives India this status for which the present Indian Government deserves credit. The other issues, even the much hyped nuclear deal has secondary importance. After all, the world has to surpass the nuclear age to a solar age and India has the advantage to become the world’s greatest solar power.

Date of Update: 27-Jan-15

 

December, 2014  

The Slaughter of School-Children

The gruesome slaughter of scores of innocent schoolchildren at the altar of knowledge, the most sacred altar of civilization, needs to be understood from diverse perspectives. Blaming Pakistan alone would have little value though Pakistan is and is not solely at fault. It is at fault because as critics say, it is heading to be a failed State with a democracy marked for its fragility. It alone is not only at fault because the wave of terrorism, insurgency and genocide surpasses countries and continents. Is then Islam itself at fault? This is also a tricky question that cannot be answered in a simplified way. In the past force was used to spread the creed of Islam. But today, the majority of those who die at the hands of Islamic terrorists are Muslims themselves. One of the unique hallmarks of Islam was the socialism existing within its own fold which of course was not extended to non-believers. But today, the social fabric within Islam is breaking down with the ISIS panorama where a section of Muslims are attempting to annihilate an entire section of their own religious brethren. Is then only the mind-set of the perpetrators of terrorism at fault? This would also be an exaggeration as the mind-set that looks so perverted is the end-result of a larger phenomenon in the Zeitgeist. For the Time-Spirit indicates that religions have already outlived their utility and need to be surpassed by spirituality. If the essence of religion has to survive, it can only meaningfully be preserved in the matrix of an all-encompassing spirituality. If humanity cannot rise up to that occasion then Nature Herself takes the responsibility choosing destruction as a means to prepare the ground for a new creation.

Date of Update: 31-Dec-14

 

November, 2014  

MYANMAR AND SOUTH ASIA

Despite Myanmar’s geo-politically strategic position, it is usually in the news for the wrong reasons. Even the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Myanmar’s most important and passionate crusader has not been able to shrug off the tremendous resistance to the nation’s aspiration to grow towards the Light. This is particularly distressing as The Mother at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram had categorically stated that a great Asian confederation (what has been conceived today as South Asian Confederation) has to include Burma, a vision which has not yet been realized in the composition of SAARC. Besides, The Mother had also included Burma (Myanmar) in the spiritual map of India, that physical space which is the matrix where the spiritual essence of the subcontinent manifested throughout ages. A South Asian progress is inconceivable without the active involvement of Myanmar.

The Indian Premier’s recent visit to Myanmar has been realistic and timed rightly. Without Myanmar’s co-operation, South Asia cannot succeed with its look-East policy. Besides, regional insurgency that plagues both India and Bangladesh need active collaborative planning with Myanmar’s strategists for effective control.

Date of Update: 22-Nov-14

 

October, 2014  

THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE, 2014

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, 2014 jointly to a zealous, fearless and passionate champion of female liberty from Pakistan who did not get dazed off by media publicity and a painstaking and enduring crusader of children’s rights from India working far from public glare came as a pleasant surprise. It is significant not because one is a Pakistani and the other is an Indian, not because one is a Muslim and one is a Hindu, not because one is a young girl and the other is a veteran male, not because one fights with dogmas and the other fights with consumerism, not because the joint prize is expected to usher peace in South Asia but because stability in South Asia is to be assiduously built with blocks that focus on pragmatic areas representing the lowest common denominator, with programmes that address areas of common interests and need common action , with bricks of confidence, with the lime of sincerity and the mortar of comradeship. This is the point of convergence of the two who brought us laurels and showed us how to dream.

Date of Update: 21-Oct-14

 

September, 2014

Apropos the Scottish Referendum

Knowledge, science, art, thought, ethics, philosophy, religion, this is man’s real business, these are his true affairs. To be is for him not merely to be born, grow up, marry, get his livelihood, support a family and then die, -- the vital and physical life, a human edition of the animal round, a human enlargement of the little animal sector and arc of the divine circle; rather to become and grow mentally and live with knowledge and power within himself as well as from within outward is his manhood. But there is here a double motive of Nature, an insistent duality in her human purpose. Man is here to learn from her how to control and create; but she evidently means him not only to control, create and constantly re-create in new and better forms himself, his own inner existence, his mentality, but also to control and re-create correspondingly his environment. He has to turn Mind not only on itself, but on Life and Matter and the material existence; that is very clear not only from the law and nature of the terrestrial evolution, but from his own past and present history. And there comes from the observation of these conditions and of his highest aspirations and impulses the question whether he is not intended, not only to expand inwardly and outwardly, but to grow upward, wonderfully exceeding himself as he has wonderfully exceeded his animal beginnings, into something more than mental, more than human, into a being spiritual and divine. Even if he cannot do that, yet he may have to open his mind to what is beyond it and to govern his life more and more by the light and power that he receives from something greater than himself…In any case the fullness of Life is his evident object, the widest life and the highest life possible to him, whether that be a complete humanity or a new and divine race. We must recognize both his need of integrality and his impulse of self-exceeding if we would fix rightly the meaning of his individual existence and the perfect aim and norm of his society.

Date of Update: 23-Sep-14

 

August, 2014

Hopes for South Asia

The Indian Prime Minister’s overtures to Pakistan and Nepal have good bearings and sensible columnists have already been raising voices for South Asian Unity. Rajinder Puri in India and Khaled Ahmed in Pakistan have already cut ice with their articles. Distinguished Pakistani intellectuals like Ishrat Hussain, formerly Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan have been advocating a South Asian Union in the lines of the European Union. Rajinder Puri (The Statesman, 10th August, 2014) very rightly points out that we should learn from the European experience where market expanded ignoring political and cultural identities leading to financial woes. A South Asian unity cannot be sustained solely on free trade and commerce but respecting the diversity of political and cultural identities, a build-up of federal autonomy for provinces and a confederation of South Asian Nations. That is perfectly commensurate with Sri Aurobindo’s vision of a South Asia united along a new paradigm.

Date of Update: 12-August-14

 

July, 2014

THE OPPURTUNITY IN AFGHANISTAN

A unique opportunity is beckoning for a new South Asian equation to emerge. The USA will soon withdraw its deployments from that war-ravished State. Many worries are being raised for the future course of activities by insurgents who themselves represent conflicting interests. A sizable section of Jihadis have been traditionally sponsored by Pakistan but the zeitgeist has chosen this particular time for Pakistan to discover its created Frankenstein. After the recent attacks on Pakistani airports by once State-sponsored terrorists, the Pakistani administration had to take the hard decision to hit back . It is too early to assess how far the counter-offensive by the State can be sustainable but nevertheless, a beginning has been made. India must take prompt advantage of this situation to be an active partner in the reconstruction of Afghanistan which needs to be designed in such a way that it will herald the beginning of a new South Asian equation. In this venture, India must actively lobby with global forces to garner support so as not to be thwarted by any Chinese influence to the contrary. History seldom provides such opportunities which should not be wasted by lack of foresight and political will. The Bunyan statues need to be reconstructed in consciousness.

Date of Update: 25-July-14

 

June, 2014

Indian Parliamentary Elections: The saga of NOTA

For the first time, Indian parliamentary elections, 2014 witnessed the introduction of an option (NOTA) to record displeasure with all the electoral candidates of any particular constituency by opting to press for the NOTA button. About 6o lakhs of voters pressed the NOTA button. It is interesting that the significant number of NOTA voters belong to the most marginalized sections of the populations. Sex-workers throughout India claim to have en masse voted for this option and they can account for one sixth of such voters. A large number of tribals have opted for this option. Most of such tribals hailed from forest areas rich in minerals and always vulnerable to be exploited by mining mafia. It is also significant that such tribal areas have been usually dominated by ultra-leftist Maoist outfits who earlier used to motivate tribals to boycott elections, a behavior they have not indulged in the present elections (Was it because of the NOTA option?) Whatever may be the reason, the pattern of voting shows that the most marginalized and under-privileged sections of the country know that no political dispensation can stop their exploitation, no political system can alleviate their suffering, no political leader has the will, strength and motivation to have a vision for their uplift. Modern India cannot have the right to boast of progress if this sensitive issue is not tackled.

Date of Update: 27-June-14

 

May, 2014

The New Ministry in India

A new Central Ministry is assuming office in India with a massive mandate and enormous expectations both from the general public and the corporate sector. A fresh beginning has been made even before the assumption of office by the new dispensation by inviting the leaders of South Asian nations at the swearing-in ceremony who also accepted the invitation. The exclusion of giant powers including China is remarkable; it gives a message of South Asian solidarity that needs to be consolidated without the interference of both China and the West.

However a word of caution is also in place as development cannot mean an exaggerated bias towards the corporate sector, towards the mere setting up of industries or opening up of markets and trade for that would be, in Aurobindonian parlance, an economic barbarism. Development has to be all-round, integral and wholistic where the economic factor is one of an array of factors needed for the progressive trajectory of the collective consciousness.

Date of Update: 26-May-14

 

April, 2014

Elections in India

The world’s largest electoral process is taking place in India spread over the months of April and May. Predictions are difficult due to multi-cornered contests. A strong leader of the nation who has vision and will-power is the pressing need of the hour. Indian democracy has proved its strength for even it has witnessed the defeat of some of the most popular leaders including that of the late Indira Gandhi. However there is one great defect in the system that needs reappraisal. A coalition of regional and national parties banking on the magic of the game of numbers can select an unexpected person to head the State. This has happened in the past. It is a sad eventuality as the individual heading the State must emerge from the aspirations and expectations of the whole nation. It is important to note that both Rabindra Nath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo favoured a Presidential system of government in India. Perhaps the Prime Minister may be selected by the whole nation similar to the way a President is elected in the USA. A serious introspection by constitutional experts should be initiated.

Date of Update: 22-April-14

 

March, 2014  

Apropos the Indo-China Conflict

A fresh twist to the history of the Indo-China conflict in 1962 has arisen with the release of the Henderson Brooks report by Neville Maxwell, a former correspondent in India of The Times, London. Media analysts have started blaming Nehru for the debacle. Rajinder Puri (The Statesman, 23rd March, 2014) asserts that the media has been carrying an overzealous reading of the Brooks report which has more value for military analysts than political strategists. Nehru can be blamed for lack of foresight but that does not absolve China of its morbid intentions.

Rajinder Puri accuses the media of exhibiting collective amnesia of what happened before the conflict. One may also note the total amnesia of the lackadaisical way in which the political strategists of the country had overlooked Sri Aurobindo’s warning when North Korea attacked South Korea on the 25th of June, 1950. In a warning issued on 28th June, 1950, in Mother India, he asserted that the adverse forces unleashed by the Korean conflict would be taken full advantage of by China who would then annex Tibet and thereafter proceed to the Indian frontiers to have hegemony over South-East Asia. He also reiterated that it would be judicious for President Truman not to be too late in interfering. Nearly a decade later, President Kennedy was taken by surprise to know how such a forewarning had come true. Sadly none of our politicians of yester-years or any student of political science today remembered that prophetic foresight.

Date of Update: 27-Mar-14

 

February, 2014  

Light at Tarnak

Events that shape history are often inconspicuous at inception. One such event occurred recently in South Asia when the Afghan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University (ANASTU), the first of its kind in Afghanistan was inaugurated at the Tarnak farm in Kandahar area of Afghanistan. It was a momentous step for two reasons:

(i) The Tarnak farm was once a Taliban stronghold from where Osama Bin Laden had reportedly supervised the World Trade Centre imbroglio in New York and the concomitant attack at the Pentagon in Washington. That the same place will now host a sophisticated agricultural university in a country where 80% of the population earns their living through agriculture which without modernization accounts for 60% of the GDP signifies a transformation of the mind-set and will-power of a race with a great heritage. The Light of education can illumine the darkest recesses of human psyche and this phenomenon was long overdue after the Bunyan Buddha statues were destroyed by a perverted mind-set that dwarfed the Titan.

(ii) The university is being set up with support of India who has invested about US$ 8 million and this strategic partnership sets a new integer for consolidation of South Asian interests. On one hand India should voluntarily take up the formidable task of being the pivotal centre of South Asia, a position bestowed by history, culture, heritage and circumstances. On the other hand, such a partnership opens up other pathways for development in South Asia that extends from academic exchange programs to transit routes for trade and commerce through Pakistan. History shows that Light can make its own way when conditions are optimally ready.

Date of Update: 28-Feb-14

 

January, 2014  

A Civilizational State

It is conceived that the nation-idea has its in-built limitations and an optimal point of its growth, the Nation-State has to collaborate in the movement towards internationalism. It has been pointed out that an exclusive attachment to the nation-idea may be an impediment to international unity. While this may hold true for Western nations, South Asia holds a peculiar position. India which represents the quintessential South Asian homeland is not a nation like the Western nations; it has been a civilizational State since time immemorial. The South Asian homeland was divided into a myriad array of kingdoms and empires but shared the same cultural, ethical and spiritual ideals. The teachings of Vedanta, Gita and Buddhism lay great stress on universal harmony long before the term secularism was coined in the West. The Indian psyche had no inhibition in shifting from the glorification of nation to the idea of spiritual universalism. Sri Aurobindo who is hailed as the prophet of Indian nationalism shifted to concentrating on internationalism since 1915 when he was inwardly assured that the British would withdraw from South Asia. However internationalism cannot be arbitrarily imposed on a diversified humanity, it needs building-blocks to be assiduously put in place. That is why on the very eve of partition of the subcontinent in 1947, Sri Aurobindo even while hailing freedom remained skeptical and hinted to outgrow the politically fractured homeland into a new South Asian alignment. It was the first bold and veridical call for a new integer of South Asian Unity. As a civilizational State, the South Asian matrix would spontaneously mature into a new integer of South Asian Unity.

Date of Update: 27-Jan-14

 

December, 2013

The new political phenomenon in India

An interesting political phenomenon happened in the recently concluded Delhi Assembly elections when an avant-garde group of professionals and youngsters protesting against high level corruption were unexpectedly supported by the masses and elected with a huge mandate. The mainstream political parties had to accept the emergence of a hitherto political non-entity and arrange its coming to take the reins of the government, albeit with their support. True, the success of a merely critical attitude cannot be criteria to run a government for that needs a visionary approach which has to be developed independent of a critical stance. True, it is doubtful whether the new government can run full term as its persistence somehow depends on the mainstream parties. The new dispensation has the advantage of fresh energy which itself is a strong motivator for persistence. However whether the new experiment in governance by inexperienced administrators succeeds or fails, the worth of its emergence has changed the face of Indian polity. Firstly, politicians can no longer take mass support as granted. Secondly, politicians will henceforth be always under the public scanner. Thirdly, the successful collective protest against corruption at a mass level has eroded the artificial groupings of the masses fostered by politicians in the name of religion, caste and regional parochialism. The development brings fresh tidings for democracy in a highly pluralistic society with repercussions for the whole of South Asia.

Date of Update: 26-Dec-13

 

November, 2013

The Election Result of Nepal

The recent election result of Nepal has significant repercussions for South Asia. The ignominious defeat of the Maoists, especially of their powerful leader Prachanda came as a surprise to many but was anyway inevitable. It is a psychological truth that power acquired by the proletariate does not automatically guarantee a glorious uplift for the proletariate for the perpetrators of power have their own desires, ambitions, lusts and greed that cannot be easily tackled as refinement of personality requires an arduous working through. It is a deeper psychological truth that power alone has limited value unless backed by visionary knowledge, foresight and the skill to execute the knowledge in terms of practical reality.

But there is also an unseen power independent of psychological, social and political factors that can act behind the scene. If it is ordained that South Asia has a unique spiritual and cultural destiny then the defeat of the Maoists is an indication that the forces of history need not be afraid of the Chinese might. Nepal is an intrinsic component of South Asia and its autonomy and stability deserves full attention .In the fitness of things, Nepal should serve the interests of South Asia unhampered by the Chinese influence.

Date of Update: 26-Nov-13

 

October, 2013

South Asian Harmony and the Kashmir problem

It is felt that one of the most stumbling blocks to South Asian harmony is the Kashmir issue. There are Kashmiris who want to be independent while others want to be allied either to India or to Pakistan. Rajinder Puri (The Statesman, 19th October,2013) has proposed that the Kashmiris can select their destiny through a fair vote but there should be two preconditions. Firstly, even if independent, Kashmir should agree to be part of a larger South Asian alignment, a union or confederation. This is a very rational approach to South Asian Harmony. Secondly, Kashmiri pundits should be securely rehabilitated in their previous areas of residence. However it is doubtful if such an endeavour would succeed through a plebiscite. Can a fair election be really possible as long as militancy survives? Even where there is no militancy, elections are never fully fair. Moreover, even if given an option, can the Kashmiri Pundits regain their lost confidence to return back to their homelands? The world has changed since they were displaced, social mobility in a global village has drifted them to new pastures and besides a plebiscite cannot ensure trust but can on the contrary increase the insecurity. Even in a stable democracy, the tyranny of the majority can call the shots. Trust is to be effectuated in the heart and soul, not at the ballot box. Perhaps there could be other ways than a plebiscite for South Asian harmony!

However there is a more basic issue which Rajinder Puri has overlooked. A collective egoism that even if partly derives sustenance from religious fundamentalism cannot reflect true self-determination. It is only when a true spirituality surpasses religion that the agenda of self-determination can be meaningful in an area like Kashmir where religious identities are passionate and volatile and to a large extent can determine political outcomes rather than other rational variables like corruption.

And last but not the least, with an unpredictable, unreliable and aggressive neighbour like China (who even today persists in issuing stapled visas to Indians from selected areas) waiting to take advantage from any division of India, can a plebiscite be risked in Kashmir?

Date of Update: 21-Oct-13

 

September, 2013

Apropos Communal Riots

The recent communal riots that claimed more than 40 lives in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India has reiterated the raw truth that freedom in any form (political, social, cultural, sexual) is not coeval with human unity, the two are separate dimensions and require separate considerations. A section of politicians may have engineered the scenario, a section of politicians are exploiting the situation and a section of politicians are calculating possible electoral dividends. Yet it would be prudent to recall Sri Aurobindo’s prophetic statement that the Hindu-Muslim problem must be viewed as a national issue and not as a political problem. Politicians exploit a volatile matrix but the roots of the problem lie deeper down where the healing must take place so that politicians cannot have the opportunity to exploit. The roots are in the collective unconscious, in the annals of history spread over manycenturies, in the psyche of the race, in the hearts and in the minds of the people. Obviously the main solution lies in a psychological approach of uplifting the mass consciousness and purging of the unconscious and a spiritual approach that surpasses the divisions of religions to culminate in an all-embracing consciousness. But the transition to such an ideal state cannot be achieved till an optimally conducive external state is created. It was so long believed that access to universal education would suffice to tackle the issue but it has failed to live up to the expectations. An isolated emphasis on education cannot succeed unless it has a strong support base. The most pragmatic support base that would foster unity at all levels, educational, cultural, economic, political, religious; would be to shift to a new South Asian alignment like the European Union. If countries like France and Germany who were arch-enemies can now co-exist peacefully, there is no reason why a region with ancient cultural moorings behind a rich diversity cannot exist in harmony. Indeed, unless a new South Asian Federation or Confederation is created, we cannot expect an end to the communal menace that can raise its hydra-head any moment.

Date of Update: 23-Sep-13

 

August, 2013

RESOLUTION ON SOUTH ASIA

National Seminar on COMMUNAL HARMONY AND SRI AUROBINDO’S VISION OF SOUTH ASIA,Bamanpukur Humayun Kabir College and Institute of Integral Yoga Psychology, Auroshakti Foundation

RESOLUTION ADOPTED UNANIMOUSLY

In his Independence Day Message on 15th August, 1947, Sri Aurobindo while acknowledging India’s freedom also pointed out that unity in the subcontinent had not been achieved which would inevitably result in greater disharmony in the subcontinent and which could only be solved by a new South Asian alignment where the essence of unity would be more important than the outer forms. In keeping with this view, this seminar proposes a resolution for a concerted movement towards a new paradigm of South Asian Unity, preferably in the form of a confederation and a propagation of the idea of South Asian Unity as a living concept in the psyche, dreams and aspiration of the youth, students and the public of this region. A detailed and exhaustive programme for South Asian Unity shall be constructed and percolated through education, social programmes, cultural programmes, political interactions so as to be consolidated in the psyche of the subcontinent.

Date of Update: 12-Aug-13

 

July, 2013  

Bifurcation of Indian States

The Government of India is in a serious fix on the issue of bifurcating the State of Andhra Pradesh to curve out a separate Telengana State . Would this bifurcation enrich the cultural diversity of the country or would it be followed by similar demands of curving out smaller States throughout the country creating chaos and anarchy which could be taken advantage of by divisive elements and vested foreign powers? Rajinder Puri (The Statesman, 17th July, 2013) points out that the examples of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh which were carved out from Punjab testify to the success of smaller States. He points out that there is a scope for creating about 50 smaller States in India and the conversion of a few key cities into City-States. One has to be very cautious when forwarding such recommendations as there is a prevalent Chinese idea of dividing India into innumerable segments so as to render it weak and spineless and have the last laugh.

It would be relevant to remember Sri Aurobindo’s observation who was deeply worried as freedom did not bring unity in the subcontinent. He strongly recommended that the artificial British-made provinces should be dismantled in favour of a federal set-up of natural divisions founded on the principle of diversity in unity as that is the Spirit of India. Such natural divisions could be represented in linguistic provinces. However the right of self-determination by any group or region must be genuine, spontaneous and historically relevant and not be a mask for collective egoism.

Date of Update: 22-Jul-13

 

June, 2013  

Pakistan's present concerns

There are high expectations from the presently elected Nawaz Sharif government of Pakistan. It is heartening that despite many hurdles, the previous civilian government lasted full term without being usurped by the military and that the transfer of power was smooth. This in fact raises more hope for positive deliverance from the present government.

For a very long time, in fact since its inception, the Pakistani establishment had been harping to project an ideal Islamic State which runs against the multicultural rubric and cultural diversity of South Asia. In the process, India bashing continued unabated with the Kashmir imbroglio adding fuel to fire. Paradoxically today, the greatest threat to Pakistan both externally and internally arises not from non-sectarian, democratic India but from the matrix of Islamic fundamentalism, from the Taliban, from Baluchistan, from Gilgit-Baltistan, from Pusthoons, from ‘Islamic’ Afghanistan. In addition, as Gurmeet Kanwal in The Statesman (17.6.2013) points out, India’s commitment to a strong and stable Afghanistan and a $2 billion investment for its reconstruction is a matter of concern to Pakistani security forces. It would be interesting to speculate whether if the same money was to be released within the ambit of a South Asian Confederation, it would have aroused the same suspicion! Pakistan has no other alternative but to exist within the broader South Asian mainstream or else it would be difficult to resist disruptive forces.

Date of Update: 22-Jun-13

 

May, 2013  


India's China Policy and Sri Aurobindo

More than a century ago, on the 1st of April, 1908, Sri Aurobindo had written that the real threat to be faced by the West would be a conquest of its market with Chinese and Japanese goods produced by cheaper labour and hence affordable at a cheaper price. He recommended that India should develop its economic potentials to balance the Mongolian and Arabic worlds.

During the Korean crisis when communist North Korea crossed the 38th parallel on 25th June, 1950 to invade South Korea, Sri Aurobindo saw ominous trends. On 28th June, three days later, he commented that the next move of the communist plan would be to dominate Tibet so as to reach the frontiers of India and subsequently control South-East Asia. He also wanted President Truman to be pro-active and pragmatic. Years later, President Kennedy was surprised that Sri Aurobindo could anticipate the intentions of Communist China at such an early date!

It is time to reflect on Sri Aurobindo’s views when designing our foreign policy with China. On the economic front, we have shifted from a production/manufacturing nation to a consumer market dominated by Chinese products. This domination is so pervasive that it has been pointed out that Indian industrialists using Chinese equipment in infrastructure development would oppose if the Indian Government imposed anti-dumping duty on Chinese goods (Abhijit Bhattacharya, The Statesman, 20th May, 2013, pg6). How can India do a balancing act between non-Western powers? India alone will not be able to initiate such poise unless it encompasses a broader South Asian vision.

On the defense sector, India has paid the price by ignoring Sri Aurobindo’s warning in 1950 as a result of which we can still have the Ladakh incursion in 2013 by the Chinese Army while we go on merrily pleasing the Chinese premier on his visit to India. We lost the chance to have a fair bargain which we can only regain if a strong South Asian foundation can be set up. Pakistan has to realize that if it continues to placate China just to oppose India, its own economy and even its own culture can one day be usurped by China. It is for the common interest of South Asian countries that a South Asian Confederation becomes inevitable.

 

April, 2013  


Afghanistan and South Asia

As a nation, Afghanistan can really be labelled as a victim of circumstances. It suffers from its own internecine conflicts, from ambivalent relations with Pakistan and from interference by Western power-players. The USA may have done one of its greatest blunders by failing to distinguish between The Pashtun Taliban of Afghanistan and the Punjabi Taliban of Pakistan. While the Punjabi Taliban which is committed to the Al Qaida ideology favours global jihad, the Pashtun Taliban seeks non-interference and self-rule. Pakistan finds this problematic as its own Pashtun citizens are in favour of joining their Afghan counterparts. Rajinder Puri (The Statesman, Calcutta, 14th April,2013, pg 6) explores three solutions:

- Creation of a federated Afghanistan where both Pashtun tribes and non-Pasthun tribes have separate provincial representations;

- Creation of soft borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan Allowing Pashtun tribes of both nations free bonding; and

- Implementation of the Anglo-Afghan Durand Line Treaty by which all Pashtun territory in Pakistan reverts back to Afghanistan.

The Taliban cannot always remain the uncontested voice of the masses. Recent happenings show that the villagers have become critical of Taliban excesses. Nearly a hundred village elders in Panjwal district of southern Afghanistan expressed strong dissent of Taliban activities and vowed to severe links signalling a new phase in power equations at the grassroots. 

The Pashtun tribes have a long cultural bondage with India. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, the tallest Pashtun leader in Pakistan was always against the partition of the subcontinent. India can take the lead and have open-ended dialogues with Pashtun tribes of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The solution of Afghanistan’s problems cannot be engineered from Washington, Moscow and Beijing; it has to be worked out in the South Asian context and matrix. 

 

March, 2013


Truth and the Blame-Game

Afzal Guru , the master-mind behind the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament was hanged by the Indian Government. In an unprecedented move, the Pakistan National Assembly passed a resolution on 14 March, 2013, condemning the execution and demanded that the body of the victim be returned to the family. The very next day, both Houses of the Indian Parliament passed identical resolutions rejecting the resolution passed by the National Assembly in Pakistan and asserted that ‘ The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the territory under illegal occupation of Pakistan, is and shall always be an integral part of India. Any attempt from any quarter to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely and with complete unity of our nation’ (vide The Statesman, 16 March,2013).


There is a beautiful truth behind this blame-game. True, India and Pakistan are independent, sovereign nations and should not ideally interfere in each other’s internal affairs. But it is more true that the partition of India and Pakistan was an act of falsehood and this subcontinent is actually an undivided whole. A turmoil at one part is bound to have a resonance at another. The very fact that Pakistan reacted somewhat outrageously to an ‘internal’ affair of India shows that the division of India and Pakistan is not only false but actually immaterial and irrelevant, one cannot do without the other, one cannot survive without the other (and one cannot blame anyone except the other!). This fact alone is a sufficient motivation to move towards a South Asian Confederation  where  complete unity can be achieved without sacrificing the principle of self-determination.

 

February, 2013


Salman Rushdie’s visit to India

Salman Rushdie’s recent visit to India brought to surface a complex dilemma. On one hand the ideal of free speech demands the right to express one’s opinions. On the other hand a vast number of people claim that they also have the freedom to protest when their eulogised religous sentiments are deliberately hurt under the garb of free speech. A democratically elected government faces a piquant situation. The law and order problem becomes a greater issue than intellectual debates forcing the adminstration to take decisions on Rushdie’s movements not based on any principle but in accordance to ground realities, obviously tilted towards the vox populi.

The intellectuals have been crying hoarse but it would be wise to reflect on what purpose it would serve if Rushdie or someone like him is allowed an open platform. A section of intellectuals would be elated, a section of the people would feel infuriated. There would be a sharp polarisation and even riots could ensue. In any case, such an attempt would not serve the greater interest we have in view: unity and integrity in South Asia . Such an unity would at one stroke rise above fundamentalist forces without the kind of anguish, mistrust and aggression that people like Rushdie initiate.

Unity is not an uniform concept. Besides, a mere critical approach can clarify certain issues, bring repressed conflicts to the surface but cannot illumine, cannot bring light to the darkest recesses. A multidimensional approach to harmony is needed. In South Asia, religous conflicts can be resolved with a deeper spirituality transcending the rigid, formalised structures of conventional religion. This would not mean an abandonment of religions but rather a fulfilment of the religous movement in the light of an unitary consciousness that holds the seeds of all religions.

A movement in consciousness also needs a matrix for manifestation. A South Asian Confederation supporting an emerging unitary spirituality would be a beacon-light to the world at large.

 

January, 2013


The Pakistani Dilemma

Pakistan is in the news for apparently wrong reasons. Without any ostensible reason for conflict escalation, the Pakistani army violated ceasefire norms and beheaded Indian soldiers on the 8th of January. On 15th January, the Pakistan Supreme Court ordered the arrest of the Pak Premier for corruption in some past case. The very same day a non-resident Pakistani cleric, Quadri, led a successful public march to parliament in Islamabad demanding democratic reform, overshadowing Imran Khan whose protests seem to have lost the enthusiasm that was there one year back. Quadri’s emphatic rejection of fatwas endorsing terrorism, moderate interpretation of Islam incorporating the Sufi perspective, promotion of liberal education and inter-faith dialogue gives him probably an edge over Imran in the sphere of visionary outlook. In the meantime, India has taken a tough stand in cancelling visa facilities for senior Pak citizens and sending back visiting Pak sportspersons.

Who will take the lead to solve this current imbroglio in Pakistan? This is the most important dilemma in Pakistan. The only one person who can take the lead is at present the Pak Army Chief, Kayani. In the chaos that is Pakistan, the Army cannot consistently maintain a rapport with a real democratic regime unless it runs the country itself or else prop up a puppet regime. Pakistan’s problem presses the necessity to form a South Asian unity. It is only through a South Asian Confederation that Pakistan as an entity can survive not only from external attacks but from its own divisive contradictions.

 

December, 2012


Apropos Abdul Rehman Malik

Abdul Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s Interior Minister has a rustic approach in his presentations and though those who value finesse and aristocracy may scoff at his loud thinking during his recent visit to New Delhi, his pronouncements reflect that the Time-Spirit is pressing hard for a pragmatic South Asian solidarity. It is not necessary to take seriously Malik’s hyperbole equating the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai with the Babri Masjid demolition imbroglio. What is necessary is to take the hint that Pakistan itself is no longer able to handle its own Frankenstein. One must not lose sight of the fact that the whole blame cannot be imposed on the avant-garde Pakistani politicians as Indian politicians have always been consistent in lacking foresight and vision. The refusal of Congress to accept either the Cripps’ mission or the Cabinet proposals before 1947 resulted in the unforeseen terrorism we are suffering today. Ayub Khan’s 1959 proposal to have a joint defence program of Pakistan and India should not have been refused. Rajinder Puri (The Statesman, 20.12.2012) asks if India made a similar offer today, would Pakistan foolishly refuse. This joint venture would not only reduce terrorism but would result in a cut in defence expenditures in both India and Pakistan and that in turn would help in poverty alleviation. However the main resistance to such a joint venture would only be surpassed if the idea of a South Asian Confederation is consolidated in the psyche of the subcontinent. It is this ideal that has to be upheld in the vision of the youth, in the dream of the thinker, in the aspiration of the vox populi. Unless the ideal is projected and stabilized, external actions alone would fail to rouse motivation for implementation.

 

November, 2012  


Expectations from China

Mr. Xi Jinping, the new President of China is expected to play a key role as unlike his immediate predecessors, he is also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission. China has usually played a double role with India, confronting India’s security and integrity in various ways while maintaining good business relations. In an increasingly globalised world-view, collaboration is replacing confrontation, co-operation is replacing competition. A strong South Asia can never demean China but can open up a new chapter of Asian supremacy. India’s spiritual bondage with Tibetan culture cannot be tackled politically and an acknowledgement of Tibetan uniqueness, even within the existing Chinese polity can go a long way in strengthening Asian solidarity. These are the expectations from the new President.

Rajinder Puri (The Sunday Statesman, 18th November, 2012) has appreciated the assertion of the outgoing President Mr. Hu Jintao that China will never accept the Western model of democracy. Puri observes that a multiparty democracy is not necessary, a single-party democracy or a party-less democracy can also be role-models. Indeed, Sri Aurobindo had expressed reservations about the Western model being imposed on the Indian psyche and the Mother had hinted that a government without party was indeed feasible. An unique oriental perspective would facilitate South Asian solidarity.

 

October, 2012  


The Nobel Peace Prize

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union this year came as a surprise, more so as the Union has been affected by economic crisis with both the public and the governments of Greece and Spain being affected by EU-imposed austerity measures. However, should the economic factor be an enough valid reason for the dismay with the award? Peace and fraternity between nations like France and Germany lay the basis for a viable union. It is a psychological truth that if non-economic factors contribute to a stable foundation, the economic shocks and turbulences can be handled in a better way.

Sri Aurobindo had previsioned much earlier the historical processes that would lead to the formation and consolidation of the European Union as early as 1916 when he wrote a famous chapter titled ‘The United States of Europe’. International Unity cannot be imposed on the matrix of uniformity in a world divided by culture, religion and polity. It has to be worked up through below and federations or free associations of free nations are necessary intermediaries in the step towards the global unification of the entire mankind. In this context, in the light of the European experience, it is logical and necessary to pursue with vigour the setting up of a South Asian Confederation.

 

September, 2012  


The Olympics imbroglio

The London Olympics of 2012 will be remembered not only for records that are surpassed and milestones that are achieved but also for an unprecedented imbroglio where players were caught unashamedly manipulating games, intentionally losing initial rounds to face weaker opponents in next rounds. It seems that manipulation is no longer the monopoly of politicians but equally belongs to sportspersons. What is intriguing is that the accused players do not belong to countries that are placed low in the hierarchy of medal tally. Quite the contrary!

It would be significant in this context to recall the esoteric meaning and symbolism of the Olympic rings made by The Mother at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry (Bulletin, November, 1949), portions of which are excerpted here:

‘It has been officially stated that the five rings of the symbol of the Olympic Games represent the five continents, but no special significance has been attached to the colour of the rings, nor has there been any intention of allotting a specific colour to each continent.

‘Nevertheless, it is interesting to study these colours and to find out what meaning they may have and what message they may convey…..

‘Green denotes a vast peaceful feeling with a direct contact and a very harmonious relationship with Nature. It could represent a continent with vast open spaces and an unspoiled population living close to the soil and Nature.

‘Red is the colour of the physical and material world. The red ring could therefore be allotted to a people that has achieved a great mastery over the physical world. This colour would also indicate that material success has given it predominance over the others. It represents a people that stresses physical and material things.

‘Blue, on the other hand, indicates a young continent with its whole future before it and great possibilities, but still new and growing.

‘Black is a very unfortunate choice of colour as it can only represent a continent which is fast falling into deep obscurity – the descent of a declining people into dark oblivion.

‘On the contrary, yellow is the most glorious colour of all. It is the golden colour of Light – the Light which comes from the Source and Origin of all things and which, with its helping hand, will lead evolving humanity back to its divine Origin.

‘The arrangement of the rings also has a significance. Black is the central colour upholding all the others, and this is indeed an indication of the black chaos which now governs the world and of the blindness of those who are at present struggling to guide the ship of humanity on the dark sea of ignorance.

‘It is our hope that in the future this black ring will be replaced by a white one, when there comes a turn in the tide of human affairs, when the shades of ignorance are dispelled by the dawn of a new light, the bright, white, self-luminous light of the new Consciousness, and when at the helm of the ship stand those who will face this brilliant radiance and set course towards the Promised Land.’

 

August, 2012  


The Olympics imbroglio

The London Olympics of 2012 will be remembered not only for records that are surpassed and milestones that are achieved but also for an unprecedented imbroglio where players were caught unashamedly manipulating games, intentionally losing initial rounds to face weaker opponents in next rounds. It seems that manipulation is no longer the monopoly of politicians but equally belongs to sportspersons. What is intriguing is that the accused players do not belong to countries that are placed low in the hierarchy of medal tally. Quite the contrary!

It would be significant in this context to recall the esoteric meaning and symbolism of the Olympic rings made by The Mother at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry (Bulletin, November, 1949), portions of which are excerpted here:

‘It has been officially stated that the five rings of the symbol of the Olympic Games represent the five continents, but no special significance has been attached to the colour of the rings, nor has there been any intention of allotting a specific colour to each continent.

‘Nevertheless, it is interesting to study these colours and to find out what meaning they may have and what message they may convey…..

‘Green denotes a vast peaceful feeling with a direct contact and a very harmonious relationship with Nature. It could represent a continent with vast open spaces and an unspoiled population living close to the soil and Nature.

‘Red is the colour of the physical and material world. The red ring could therefore be allotted to a people that has achieved a great mastery over the physical world. This colour would also indicate that material success has given it predominance over the others. It represents a people that stresses physical and material things.

‘Blue, on the other hand, indicates a young continent with its whole future before it and great possibilities, but still new and growing.

‘Black is a very unfortunate choice of colour as it can only represent a continent which is fast falling into deep obscurity – the descent of a declining people into dark oblivion.

‘On the contrary, yellow is the most glorious colour of all. It is the golden colour of Light – the Light which comes from the Source and Origin of all things and which, with its helping hand, will lead evolving humanity back to its divine Origin.

‘The arrangement of the rings also has a significance. Black is the central colour upholding all the others, and this is indeed an indication of the black chaos which now governs the world and of the blindness of those who are at present struggling to guide the ship of humanity on the dark sea of ignorance.

‘It is our hope that in the future this black ring will be replaced by a white one, when there comes a turn in the tide of human affairs, when the shades of ignorance are dispelled by the dawn of a new light, the bright, white, self-luminous light of the new Consciousness, and when at the helm of the ship stand those who will face this brilliant radiance and set course towards the Promised Land.’

 

July, 2012  


The Presidential Election in India

For so long, the Presidential election in India was a low-key affair that seldom invited public attention at a mass scale. There were three reasons for this. Firstly, the President is not directly elected by the people but by elected representatives of the people. Secondly, the President in India is a titular head who does not usually exert his independent opinion and has no say on the policy matters of the government. Thirdly the people of the country expect that the President’s chair should be ideally occupied by a person who combines scholastic aptitude, integrity in character and non-partisan attitude. Fortunately, some of our past Presidents fulfilled these criteria. However the Presidential election of 2012 has been witnessing unprecedented public posturing, canvassing, and mud-slinging that is unbecoming of the high values associated with the Chair.

Perhaps the time has come for serious introspection in the Indian public psyche about the whole process of the Presidential election and the role of the President per se. A feeling has been growing in the public at large that the Presidential candidate can be arbitrarily chosen without any regard for the aspirations and sensitivities of the people at large. In a brazen demonstration of the dictatorship of the majority, power-mongers reshuffle political cards and even the hallowed Chair of the President is not spared. In this context, it would be interesting to recall Sri Aurobindo’s views on the Presidential system which he made on 27th December, 1938 when asked about his idea of an ideal government in India:

‘My idea is like what Tagore once wrote. There may be one Rashtrapati at the top with considerable powers so as to secure a continuity of policy, and an assembly representative of the nation. The provinces will combine into a federation united at the top, leaving ample scope to local bodies to make laws according to their local problems.’

We have a strange situation where the President is not directly elected by the people and the Prime Minister is not directly selected by the people. It is time for the Indian nation to do serious introspection to redefine the offices of the President and the Prime-Minister.

 

June, 2012  


Myanmar as Part of South Asia

When SAARC was constituted, it did not include Myanmar as part of South Asia. However, when The Mother drew the map of the subcontinent after India’s independence, she represented that part of the world where the pristine perennial spiritual heritage of the East is preserved in essence. In that cartographic representation, Burma (Myanmar) finds its place as an equally important portion of a projected spiritual South Asia as do other parts which are grouped together in SAARC. It is this spiritual South Asia that is saluted in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram as the motherland surpassing all political limitations. It is another fact that Myanmar was not considered by SAARC as a political part of South Asia. The recent visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Myanmar with a delegation that included educationists and industrialists has rekindled a renewed interest in Myanmar to re-establish relationships that were once cherished. Even in the beginning of the 20th century, Burmese educational institutions were monitored from Calcutta University. It seems that after a long gap, Myanmar recognizes that India can provide a more conducive educational guide than China. Myanmar is also enthusiastic to open up business frontiers though unfortunately, the Indian delegation did not have Kolkata based industrialists with whom Myanmar would be more at ease (Manash Ghosh’s report, The Statesman, 13th June,2012). This attitudinal change in Myanmar was long overdue and necessary for enhancing South Asian interests. What is now left to be worked out is that Myanmar should cease to be a mere cousin of South Asia and instead rightfully become an integral part of South Asia. The Mother’s vision of a spiritual South Asia needs also an equivalent political space to be manifested.

 

May, 2012  


Impersonal Ethics

A 15 year old Indian boy was arrested in Kerala for killing his tenth-standard classmate. He confessed that he was inspired by the action-packed Rambo series of Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone. He did not kill on the spur of a moment’s anger and hence was not exhibiting the usual impulsivity that marks such teenage killings. It was to avenge a trivial clash between the two when they were in the ninth standard indicating that the clash itself was a justification for executing his calculated and premeditated adventurous act.

What is more important is that ethics has become increasingly impersonal in the modern society. This movement presumably started with industrialization, but has now reached its acme when industry has shifted from its selective physical moorings to an apparently unrestrained cyberspace. There need not be any commitment to any human being, nor to one’s cultural, social, religious and familial gestalt. It is a world of virtual reality that beckons one with the false lure of omnipresence and omnipotence. One can play god at will. There are no adults in flesh and blood to serve as role-models to children and teenagers.

It is the same story all over the world. Are we going to sit and watch our children turning Frankenstein? Sri Aurobindo had warned that our ‘cultural independence’ should not be allowed to be paralyzed by unwarranted influences. Indian culture has always survived periods of decadence by enlightened revival. We must work to make the higher view of life a creative power in the world.

 

April, 2012  


Media Madness

An interesting situation rose recently in the media when a state government in India decided to stop subscribing certain national dailies in its state libraries. It was a symbolic action for not even a miniscule of the population visits some 1500 odd libraries in question and the world today is in the middle of a media explosion. The readership or news transmission was not affected and not supposed to be affected. The protest against the decision was aimed to the ‘attitude’ behind it which was labeled as anti-democratic, dictatorial, fascist, and a product of madness for ostensibly, the government was annoyed with what it perceived as partisan criticism against governmental policies.

There are two interesting aspects of this significant happening:

(a) Despite knowing that the media cannot be restrained in an increasingly global village, why did the government take this symbolic action? In fact the government neither interfered nor could technically interfere with the barrage of public outcry but remained steadfastly detached. Globalization rides on the crest of commercialism and there might be business dealings and interests hidden from the public eye that may be behind the ambivalence between the government and the media.

(b) This incident should also trigger some soul-searching for the media which today seems to be civilization’s strongest weapon. That news can be aired in a partisan way is a reality. But what is more disturbing is the fact that the way media serves the cause of Truth can at times serve the triumph of Falsehood. One glaring example is that the over-exposure of suicides by children, especially at sensitive times like when examination results are published, trigger off a copy- cat phenomenon resulting in a train of unfortunately replicated deaths. Similarly, overworked reports of deviancy can also take its own toll. The media has yet to learn to balance objectivity and subjectivity not only from the journalistic perspective but simultaneously from the universal poise. Till that is done it can always be taken for a ride by politicians and administrations.

 

March, 2012  


Policy and Mind-set

In a surprising gesture, Kim Jong-Un, the new leader of North-Korea has decided to freeze its nuclear weapons programme and has announced that the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy agency will be permitted to visit the country. True, he has bargained this concession in return for 240,000 tonnes of American food-aid for his country which is under the impact of a severe famine. Nevertheless dictators are known to be rigid in their stance regardless of the suffering of the proletariat. It is therefore refreshing that North Korea has taken a policy which eventually will bring it closure to its Southern counter part. Following the union of Vietnam and Germany, the world awaits the union of Korea as an important step towards international unity.

Can we visualize Pakistan and India declaring freezing of their nuclear programmes as a trust-building measure that would be a precursor to South Asian Unity? Such Government policies are unlikely to succeed because of the basic mistrust operating at several levels:

a) the mistrust between the people of South Asia;
b) the stance of religious fundamentalism;
c) the motives of terrorist groups and ,
d) the fear of being over shadowed by the aggressive regional policies of China.

Hence the policy decision that can be successful in Korea can not be successful in the Indian subcontinent unless there is change in the mindset of the people. A new South Asian configuration should settle and consolidate itself in the psyche of the people before any policy for South Asian unity can be implemented. This means a building up of the confederation - idea from diverse perspectives - socio - cultural, educational, commercial, sports eventually leading to a unity akin to the European Union but with its own uniqueness.

 

February, 2012  


Corruption In India

India has been witnessing an unprecedented public protest against corruption at high places. The protest has been along two major directions. One direction was a mass mobilsation of the proletariat. Anna Hazare, a veteran Gandhian tried to arouse public awareness on suitable provisions required for a proposed Lokpal Legislation that would act as a powerful watchdog against politicians. Ramdev, a popular yoga teacher tried to use his media image to sensitize the masses about money illegally stashed abroad. These mass based approaches could not withstand political onslaught and lost their steam.

The other direction against corruption was led by legal luminaries with focused intervention on specific areas where the Government has major lapses. Subramanian Swami, Ram Jethmalani and Prashant Bhusan achieved as individuals more success in their fight against corruption than the mass mobilizations. Rajinder Puri, veteran columnist, commented that these individuals succeeded by pursuing the struggle in court rooms whereas Hazare and Ramdev could not succeed in their mission despite bringing thousands to the streets.

However both the approaches are necessary and actually complement each other. The most important thing is that the consciousness of the masses has to be sensitized in a way that the will to protest against corruption becomes consolidated in the psyche of the race. When the proletariat focuses its awareness on corruption, the real battle begins. How and when the battle will progress will be then decided by the Time-Spirit.

Rajinder Puri had underestimated the strength of the masses just because Hazare and Ramdev had to retreat on the face of pressure by the Government. Within a day after Swami was applauded by Rajendar Puri (The Statesman, 4th Feb, 2012) to score over Hazare, his petition against the Home Minister was dismissed by a trial court. The next day Swami admitted that he should collaborate with Hazare and Ramdev to broaden the base needed to fight corruption. This is a wise tactical move as spectacular individual fights against corruption can only be sustained when the political consciousness of the proletariat reaches a certain optimal point and is geared up with a will for action.

 

January, 2012  


Aspiration for the New Year

In an informal conversation on the 15th of August, 1925, Sri Aurobindo had explained that when the Highest Truth seeks to manifest in the world, it creates dissonance and chaos in the settled order of things, stirs up turbulence both in the human mind and the eco-systems resulting in an increase in psychiatric disorders and natural calamities (He had cited ‘earthquakes’ as example). The momentum of such turmoil and disruption grows phenomenally as the Time-Spirit, emboldened with the progress of science, enamoured with the spirit of humanism, presses for the union of mankind. Sri Aurobindo cryptically remarked, ‘Such a union is the condition for the Highest Truth coming down and it is also our difficulty’.  

We are entering the threshold of a new year at a time when Sri Aurobindo’s prophetic vision stares point-blank at our face in a world where depressive illness is set to overtake other diseases and progress is beleaguered with an increasing tide of earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, floods, volcanic eruptions and conflagrations. Even the first day of the year was not spared with Japan reeling under an earthquake and Pondicherry limping back to normalcy after a cyclone uprooted about a lakh of trees. The leap year waits for a leap in our consciousness, a rising aspiration in our hearts and minds to invoke the Highest Truth despite all obstacles and setbacks.

 

December, 2011  


The Future of Maoist Insurgency in Bengal

Over the last few years Maoist insurgency has been increasing in selected parts of India, especially in areas with a preponderance of marginalized tribal population. These areas are usually backward in terms of development and yet full of natural resources. Ironically, such resources are exploited either by market forces or by the insurgents who need money for purchasing fire-arms. The proletariat in the Mao-infested zones goes on suffering because they are often killed without any ostensible reason, presumably to create an ambience of panic and terror. This phenomenon is supplemented by sporadic unwanted killings of ordinary Governmental security personnel so as to break the morale of the administration.

For the first time in the political history of India, a firebrand lady politician displayed exemplary courage in countering Maoist insurgency in Bengal with a three-pronged approach:

(1) Developmental programs ranging from distribution of food-grains, mass employment and empowerment to building up educational, civil and health infrastructure;

(2) Launching strong counter-intensive to prevent killing of innocent citizens;

(3) Mobilisation of masses at the grass root level by reaching out to the people whom the Maoist had taken into confidence, thus strengthening their psyche.

This third strategy required a strong political will for deliverance. If this succeeds, the Maoist and their intellectual supporters have to abandon their cherished strategy of armed revolution. After all, in a changing world and in a vibrant democracy, the dream of an armed uprising is bound to end in a fiasco. Instead, a strategy of co-operative action aimed at rural upliftment would be the need of the hour and may be better served by left radicals than others.

Post-script:
The Maoist had so long justified the killings of simple security personnel by describing them as symbols of an exploitative administration. Such rhetoric had at one time swayed the proletariat, but not now anymore. As a villager told me, “It is our rural youth, sons of farmers, rustic and robust, who are recruited as soldiers and paramilitary staff in India. Your obese, junk-food loving, bulimic urban boys do not fit in that role. We do not want our simple boys to be killed by Maoists just because they have joined the security forces. They are not children of corporate giants, they are not children of high-flying management experts, they are not children of intellectuals, and they are not children of national politicians. Why are our children targeted? We are not amused when Maoist sympathizers brand our simple boys as symbols of imperialism. We are not going to be fooled any more”.

 

November, 2011  


Progressive and Regressive forces In the Muslim world

The Muslim world is facing a strange dilemma. On one hand there has been a strong protest against dictatorial and imperialistic attitudes whose latest culmination was the killing of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya in his own lair amidst jubilation of the proletariat. This event has been hailed as a progressive step towards democratization in the Arab world. On the other hand there has been a consolidation of obscurantist, fundamentalist elements in the Western Zone of South Asia. In the recent past, a fall out of such extremist agenda was the destruction of the Bunyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan that had withstood the ravages of history and climate for nearly two millennia. Today there is an apprehension that a reorientation of these regressive forces may result in a fanatic attempt to destroy the sites of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, the cradle of Indus Valley civilization, now situated in Pakistan. This would destroy the traces of one of the earliest civilizations of the world which also was the fountain head of what later came to be known as perennial wisdom that flowered through the Vedas and Vedanta. This destruction could also be complemented by ravaging the place of Guru Nanak’s birth near Lahore in Pakistan. This would be a disastrous obituary to the visionary who synthesized the deeper aspects of Islam and Vedanta. The only way to halt such savagery would be to build up a strong South Asian confederation where the heritage of the region would get its due respect. This needs a new political alignment where a mounting opposition against Western intervention supplemented with an enhanced build- up with China does not set Pakistan against the greater, indigenous interest of the subcontinent.

 

September, 2011  


South Asia and the Chinese factor

It has been reported that the Sindh province of Pakistan is contemplating to introduce the Chinese language as compulsory subject from class VI in all its schools from2013. It would be the first time in history that without being militarily conquered by a foreign power, a culturally alien language will be self-imposed by a sovereign nation.  In other words, Pakistan is volunteering to be a vassal state of China. History will decide if this is a gesture of sycophancy or an inevitable defeat in a war of commerce – a new game with new rules. This abject submission by Pakistan would not be the end of the story. Instead of consolidating a strong South Asia where India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and others would be equally important components, Pakistan could opt for a confederation or economic block with China and corporate lobbyists would want India to be associated too. This would result in Pakistan and India to be de facto colonies of China, colonies of exploitation much to the delight of the corporate sector. It would be culturally ruinous, psychologically devastating, spiritually defunct and at the end economically detrimental to the future of South Asia. A section of economists would be delighted at such short-term gains.  It would be more judicious to develop South Asian economy as a balance between China and the Western world.

August, 2011


Corruption in India

In recent times, corruption has become an unprecedented public issue in India. A huge debate has been raging through out the country over a bill to be introduced in the Parliament to check corruption at high levels of power. The interesting issue is whether the civil society has the right to dictate terms to elected legislators while drafting and enacting the anti- corruption bill. Politicians have been unable to accept to bring the Prime Minister of the country under the ambit of the bill. A section of civil society has become vociferous on this issue and has been resorting to forms of passive resistance like hunger-strikes. The politicians have been depicting such resistance as unconstitutional because the civil rights activists have not been “elected”. While there is confusion over the participation of “unelected” citizens in democracy, it seems that even if “unconstitutional”, the politicians have to be at the receiving end in accordance to the law of Karma. The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry had remarked long back that in India, one day, people would laugh at political parties. It seems that the credibility of political parties and politicians have reached the lowest ebb.

In competition with the politicians, the giant and prestigious corporate in India are not lagging behind in terms of corruption. An editorial in The Sunday Statesman dated 7th August, 2011 reports how Shahid Balwa, one of the accused in the 2G Spectrum case rocking the country, asked the CBI special court why Tata Teleservices, which made a killing by selling its stakes to Docomo of Japan after it was awarded 2G Spectrum, was spared while he was being imprisoned for selling 45% of Swan equity shares to Dubai based Etisalat. It has been argued that in the case of Swan, the foreign investor’s money remained locked in the country whereas in Tata’s case it earned the company windfall profits. The Statesman reports that a quarter of what was bought for Rs.1650 crore by the Tata’s was sold for more than Rs. 13000 crore.

The main problem is that corruption is an all-pervading phenomenon in South Asia affecting all walks of life not sparing even the judiciary. Where can the common man appeal for redressal? In 1893, Sri Aurobindo, on his return to India at the age of 21, explained that it was the British who had the compulsion to introduce corruption in India or else they would not have been able to rule an alien country. To serve this purpose they created a middle class and introduced a middle class education to churn out philistines. Ironically, the first generation of politicians in India emerged from the new middle-class or bourgeoisie and had neither experience of administration nor the experience of resistance to administration. They also could not correctly estimate the suffering and misery of the proletariat. The middle class produced clerical staff that was not sincere in administrative work because they knew they were not serving their dear nation but merely catering to an exploitatative foreign power. By the time that foreign power finally left, the legacy of corruption had become a national habit.

The corruption in judiciary in South Asia can be traced to the infamous trial in 1858 by the Britishers, unparalled in the world for its farcical nature. Bahadur Shah, a sovereign as understood in International law was unjustifiably tried as a traitor on the basis of largely irrelevant and legally inadmissible evidence, and deposed and deported at the age of 82 without allowing him a fair defense. Ironically, the sovereign, independent nations of South Asia are still not free from the stigma of a tainted judiciary.

The legacy of corruption persists since British rule and it is high time now to move forward to a new age. A transition cannot come on the basis of legal and administrative reforms alone. Personality development programs that induce growth in consciousness have to be introduced as part of basic education. Together with all other perspectives, the spiritual dimension has to be given its proper place in life. It is only then that laws and rules can have a space to be meaningful.  

 

July, 2011


Freedom from colonial hangover

The whole of India has been earnestly watching whether the government can forcibly acquire highly fertile multi-crop land not for public utility like dams and bridges but for catering to private entrepreneurs, real-estate business, brokers and middlemen. In Singur, farmers were beaten up by the communist state government, in Greater Noida, the act was repeated by a government led by a party supposed to champion Dalit interests. In both cases, the acquisition was done by invoking an archaic, colonial 19th century law designed by the British to hold power in an alien territory. In the Singur case, the most vocal votaries of the colonial law have been the Marxists of Bengal.

The Singur imbroglio is still in court. The new bill passed by a newly elected popular government which clashes with the colonial Act, has been challenged by one of the most premier industrial groups of South Asia – the Tata group - with tacit support of the Marxists. On the other hand, the apex court in India delivered a landmark judgment holding it illegal to snatch cultivable land in Greater Noida from poor farmers for luxury apartments and shopping malls. In his Karmayogin editorial on October 9th 1909, Sri Aurobindo had written that political freedom has “two aspects: external freedom and internal freedom. Total liberation from foreign rule is external freedom; democracy is the culmination of internal freedom….We want complete freedom: total liberation from alien domination and bondage, complete sovereignty for our people in their homeland.”

The above message is still relevant, even today, for two reasons:

1. We have achieved freedom from foreign domination but not yet from foreign bondage. Our Marxists and champions of the Dalit cause still have no inhibition to invoke archaic, colonial laws to exploit our hapless farmers. One shudders to think that in a country where the crusaders of the downtrodden can take such an exploitative stance, then how more outrageous can be the land-sharks, middlemen and business agents?

2. Complete sovereignty in democracy needs that the populi must be acknowledged. In the Singur case, the industrialist petitioner can challenge the popular state government without considering the sentiments of the proletariat and repeatedly wanted to be heard alone without the presence of the defendants. In the Greater Noida case, the apex court took the public anguish in its judicial ambit. This is the spirit of true democracy which needs to be extended in other areas of public life and not withheld in the pretext of a colonial hangover.

 

June, 2011

A new social class

Since the Communist Party of India ( Marxist ) or CPM (who were expected to practice Democratic Socialism by participating in Indian parliamentary democracy) ) lost the West Bengal assembly elections in May,2011 after being in power for 34 years at a stretch, many irregularities and deviances in their governance are being unearthed. This is not an unexpected phenomenon considering that power, if held in an absolutist way, corrupts absolutely. However the most surprising exposure has been the regular unearthing of illegal arms and ammunitions from and near CPM party offices and residences of CPM leaders, especially in the trouble-prone tribal areas. To add to misery, skeletons are being unearthed at sensitive places and forensic experts are being summoned to find out whether they belong to victims purportedly slain under CPM rule. The unearthing of arms and skeletons are being made possible by the enthusiasm of the proletariat whose voice was reportedly stifled during CPM rule. This phenomenon has not only shocked and surprised the lay public but also a section of communist ideologues who cannot believe that some of their comrades could be so notoriously macabre to transform the sensitive rural areas of Bengal into killing-fields just to retain political power at any cost.

What is interesting is that such a situation was visualized by the late Amlan Datta, an economist and thinker of repute. Prof. B.B. Dutta in his biographical sketch of Amlan Datta recounts, ‘ Prof. (Amlan) Datta’s one prediction …was that in socialism a new class will be born not so much by the power of money or capital as by the capture of political power. And this class will try to perpetuate itself by being greedy for power; they will be violent in attitude and may act as a kind of mafia in the name of Marxism echoing Milovan Djilas’ New Class Theory’. (Selected Works of Prof. Amlan Datta. Development: Challenges and Responses, Edited by B.B.Dutta et al,Divya Jeevan Foundation,Gurgaon, 2011)

One might as well recall Sri Aurobindo’s aphorism:
Democracy was the protest of the human soul against the allied despotisms of autocrat, priest and noble; Socialism is the protest of the human soul against the despotism of a plutocratic democracy; Anarchism is likely to be the protest of the human soul against the tyranny of a bureaucratic Socialism… (Sri obindo, Thoughts and Aphorisms, quoted in Essays Divine and Human, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1994, pg 482)

 

May, 2011

MAY-2011 - A LANDMARK MONTH IN 21st CENTURY


May, 2011 saw two momentous events in South Asia :

1. In the early hours of 2nd May, American forces reportedly killed Osama Bin Laden in a spectacular encounter in Pakistan. What is interesting is that neither the victim labeled as the most dreaded terrorist in the world nor the encounter specialists belonged to the South Asian soil, they were both aliens. This phenomenon itself has enormous implications. Whether Osama was hiding with or without the support of Pakistani authorities or whether the modus operandi of the American operation with or without the support of Pakistani authorities was an interference of sovereignty will remain contentious and albeit, partially unanswered issues. Yet there emerges an unexpected message. The resolution of modern terrorism has to be consolidated in the South Asian soil. That mission cannot be left to Western nations through executing terrorists hiding in South Asia. It needs a multi-leveled approach. The social perspective of that approach can only be constructed through a strong, vibrant South Asian Confederation. Such a confederation can only safeguard the sovereignty of South Asia. A strong and united South Asia can ensure that its soil is not a platform for a conflict between non-South Asian actors, whether terrorists or mercenaries, commandants or commandos.

2. The election results of the West Bengal assembly polls announced on 13th May is significant. The debacle of the communist party in power since 1977 was not merely a defeat of a political party in a see-saw battle. It marked the end of a regime whose agenda of governance through democratic centralism cannot succeed in the South Asian psyche where even the multi-party democracy has to represent the cultural, ideological and metaphysical diversity that has survived the ravages of history. If democracy envisages a government by the people, of the people and for the people and if ‘people’ in South Asia carry the legacy of the richest cultural and creative diversity in the world, then democratic centralism will inevitably lead to the collapse of a regime eulogizing partycracy. What is more important is that the democratic centralism practiced by the communists sought to enforce political ideals that are alien to the temperament and mind-set of South Asia. The principles of human equality and socialism were embedded as seed-ideas in the Upanishads, Buddhism and Islam. Any political vision has to be placed in the gestalt of spirituality if it has to be offered to the South Asian psyche. It is significant that the communist regime in Bengal had to finally succumb to the electorate who opted for an alternative that upheld the slogan – MAA, MATI, MANUSH (the universal value of motherhood, the sustaining value of earth as a spiritual, cultural-anthropological, ecological principle, the creative-progressive value of the human being). This political slogan that acknowledged spirituality was accepted as more proletariat-friendly than the rather dry outdated slogans of communism in a changing world where even China and Vietnam are in the vanguard of globalization.  

 

April, 2011

MICRO-CREDIT AND MACRO-PLAYERS

Mohammed Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering micro-financing work to help the rural poor of Bangladesh, a key South Asian nation. Nearly two thirds of the clients benefited were among the world’s poorest and nearly three-fourth of them were women. He helped to advance loans for self-employment to marginalized people who lacked capital, employment, collateral security or valid credit history. The journey started with a modest loan given to a village lady, Sufia Khatun in 1976.The ensuing micro-credit revolution got wide acceptance and began to be emulated abroad, especially India.

This fairy-tale micro-credit success got a severe jolt recently with Yunus being accused of diverting funds from international donors to his own companies. The Bangladesh Government asked him to step down from the helm of affairs of his Grameen Bank as after all, he has already reached the age of superannuation. Yunus has refused and his appeals have been rejected both by the High Court and the Supreme Court.

However a new element has appeared complicating the scene. A report in The Statesman on 29th March,2011 by an alumnus of the National Defense College of India states that both the former President of USA, Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, the present US Secretary of State, want Yunus to remain the head of the Grameen Bank. Hillary has been reported to have indicated that she might cancel her ensuing Dhaka visit if her recommendation is not complied.US  Senator Jesse Jackson has commented that the Bangladesh government’s action is an attack on civil society!

There are two sides of this imbroglio. On one hand, gifted individuals in under-developed regions gain wider acceptance in their own homeland if recognized, acknowledged and awarded by developed Western powers. On the other hand, any such recognition can also come with a price of Western interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. Ostensibly, this phenomenon can persevere as poorer nations have to depend on Western aid and support.

It is a controversy like this that actually merits the setting up of a strong South Asian Confederation. Bangladesh represents a certain economic and political configuration in South Asia. But taken as a whole, a broader South Asian Confederation that represents a variety of economic and political configurations would be better poised to absorb both the beneficial and problematic sides of programs like micro-financing. Thus in Bangladesh, even solvent farmers could not repay their loans after crop failure leading to embarrassing loan recovery drives. A wider South Asian Confederation could handle this issue in a way that could dissipate the borrower’s plight as well as uphold the nobler vision of micro-financing.

A strong and viable South Asian Confederation could also ensure that problems in the region can be solved de novo, without external interference. The Western powers would have to be told that such an endeavor would uphold the principle of ‘liberty’ which they themselves teach themselves.

 

March, 2011

The affirmation of Dalit power in the contemporary political scene of India is definitely a triumph of the downtrodden, underprivileged both in terms of the caste equation and financial resources. When a vast mass of people rises up after ages of injustice, a great amount of suppressed energy is released. That is an energy that was not allowed to be tamed, refined or sublimated; hence it can choose outrageous modes of expression. A classical example is the recent erection of marble statues of contemporary Dalit politicians (who despite their aggressive anti-upper caste stance are also not free from corruption in the eyes of the public press) along with statues of Lord Buddha whose purity, honesty, compassion and message of social equality have remained unabated during the last two millennia. The educated Indian elite, the rightists who are traditionalists, the leftists who are anti-establishment, religious leaders who vouchsafe for sanctity, the secularists who scoff at hypocrisy, the youth who idolize revolt – all have been powerless against this upsurge of the power of the downtrodden. Nobody equates Lord Buddha with the contemporary Dalit politicians for it seems that the message of this new Dalit emblem is that the downtrodden have the ability and birth-right to rise to the position of Lord Buddha or the avant-garde political icons .Ironically, it has happened at a time when religious fundamentalists cum terrorists broke down the millennia old Bunyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan.

The world has to wait till the sense of aesthetics is reinstated in a new poise. In India, it is the Dalit power, after being satiated with strength will discover that its dissatisfaction needs a harmony of ethics and aesthetics. It is only then that the statues will be modified. In the world of fundamentalism, a new spirituality that outgrows the religious fixities of forms, rituals and dogmas has to manifest. But how will that happen? Has the world to wait for another messiah of the masses, another Buddha, Christ, Mohammed or Ramakrishna?  It would be more reasonable at this time to design a new and innovative educational paradigm where higher modes of thinking in consonance with Sri Aurobindo’s evolutionary schemata of cognitive consciousness are gradually incorporated. It is only with a widening of vision, a shift from a linear to a wholistic thinking, an accommodation of multiple thoughts and a capacity of non-verbal, intuitive thinking that we can break our boundaries to emerge in the splendour of Truth.

 

February, 2011

The Aryan verses Dravidian conflict was a falsity imposed by the British on the Indian masses resulting in two distinct political configurations .The first one revolves around the rise of Dravidian power in South India; the second one revolves around the rise of Dalit power in North India. The Dravidian parties have become so strong in the Indian polity that they cannot be ignored in the Central Cabinet regardless of whether the ruling party at the Center is single or in coalition. Even after one of the greatest scams in post independent India was unearthed, it took nearly two months to arrest the tainted politician as he is from the Dravidian fold. In North India the rise of Dalit power is symbolized by the clubbing of the statues of Lord Buddha (born two millennia back) along with contemporary Dalit politicians. The message of course is not that Lord Buddha is equivalent in status, wisdom and power to the contemporary Dalit politicians but that the downtrodden can arise to any of these levels. (For details please refer to Archives , Journal ,Aug 2010).

What would be the repercussions if the Dalit (who represent the marginalized, socially and economically downtrodden castes) try to rise in the matrix of Dravidian politics (which represents regional hegemony) ? Logically, the rise of the economically backward Dalit power as a potent force would be expected in the midst of the Dravidian fold. But we do not see any indication of this phenomenon. Even the communist parties have failed to make any headway in the Dravidian masses. Hugo Gorringe, a sociologist has described how Dalit power succumbed to Dravidian hegemony (Frontline, Vol. 27 Issue 5, Feb 27 to March 12, 2010). This means that the mind-set of regionalism overrules the economic factor even in developmental terms in the Dravidian arena.

What do we learn from this phenomenon? To construct a truly Indian identity and subsequently a South Asian unity, the masses have to first rise above the communal ego that characterizes regionalism.  In other words economic factors have to be supplemented by non-economic factors to raise the social consciousness of the masses. Once this is attempted, a second and new movement has to be initiated. An entirely new element in consciousness is needed to be interjected, something that was absent, hidden or dormant in the population. Through the technology of consciousness, the cognitive repertoire has to be enlarged to simultaneously accommodate multiple ideas. At first only selected individuals will be receptive. Even then the whole population will start benefiting. It is high time we initiate serious attempts at human unity.

 

January, 2011

We reproduce here an interesting extract from a lecture delivered by Swami Vivekananda in London on Thursday morning, May 7, 1896 and recorded by Mr. Josiah J. Godwin (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol.1X, Advaita Ashram, Kolkata, Feb 1997, pg 250-252,257)

Swami Vivekananda on Sanskrit

With their tremendous power of analysis, the Germans found that there was a similarity between Sanskrit and all the European languages. Among the ancient languages, Greek was the nearest to it in resemblance. Later, it was found that there was a language called Lithuanian, spoken somewhere on the shores of the Baltic – an independent kingdom at that time and unconnected with Russia. The language of the Lithuanians is strikingly similar to Sanskrit .Some of the Lithuanian sentences are less changed from Sanskrit forms than the Northern Indian languages. Thus it was found that there is an intimate connection between all the various languages spoken in Europe and the two Asiatic languages – Persian and Sanskrit. Many theories are build upon it as to how this connection came .Theories were build up everyday , and everyday smashed .There is no knowing where it is going to stop.

Then came the theory that was one race in ancient times who called themselves Aryans. They found in Sanskrit literature that there was a people who spoke Sanskrit and called themselves Aryans, and this is mentioned also in Persian literature. Thus they founded the theory that there was in ancient times a nation (of People) who called themselves Aryans and who spoke Sanskrit and lived in Central Asia .This nation , they said , broke into several branches and migrated to Europe and Persia ; and wherever they went , they took their own languages. German, Greek and French are but remnants of an old tongue, and Sanskrit is the most highly developed of these languages…

But in the first place, Sanskrit literature alone is a very big mass. Although, perhaps, three-fourths of it has been destroyed and lost through successive invasions, yet, I think, the sum total of the amount of literature in Sanskrit would outbalance any books. No one knows how many books are there yet and where they are, because it is the most ancient of all these Aryan languages. And that branch of the Aryan race which spoke the Sanskrit language was the first to become civilized and the first to begin to write books and literature. So they went on for thousands of years. How many thousands of years they wrote no one knows. There are various guesses – from 3000 B.C. to 8000 B.C. – but all of these dates are more or less uncertain…

Another curiosity about the Sanskrit literature is that it, like any other language, has undergone many changes. Taking all the literature in these various Aryan languages—the Greek or the Latin or all these others—we find that all the European branches were of very recent date. The Greek came much later—and a mere child in comparison with the Egyptian or the Babylonian. ..

So this Sanskrit has undergone very much change as a mater of course, having been spoken and written through thousands of years. It necessarily follows that in other Aryan languages, as in Greek and Roman, the literature must be of much later date than Sanskrit. Not only so, there is this peculiarity, that of all regular books that we have in the world, the oldest are in Sanskrit – and that is the mass of literature called the Vedas. There are very ancient pieces in the Babylonian or Egyptian literature, but they cannot be called literature or books, but just a few notes, a short letter, a few words, and so on. But as finished, cultured literature, the Vedas are the oldest...

I have said that the Sanskrit in which the Vedas were written is not the same Sanskrit in which books were written about a thousand years later than the Vedas – the books that you read in your translations of poets and other classical writers of India. The Sanskrit of the Vedas was very simple. Archaic in its composition, and possibly it was a spoken language. But the Sanskrit that we have now was never a spoken language, at least for the last three thousand years. Curiously enough, the vast mass of literature was written in a language which was dead, covering a period of three thousand years. Dramas and novel were written in this dead language. And all the time it was not spoken in the homes; it was only the language of the learned.

Even in the time of Buddha, which was about 560 years before the Christian era, we find that Sanskrit had ceased to be a spoken language.

 

December, 2010

The linguistic evidence and the Aryan invasion theory

A critical reappraisal of the linguistic perspective also, like archaeological evidence, disproves the Aryan invasion theory. We continue to present excerpts from Michel Danino’s book, ‘The Invasion That Never Was’, The Mother’s Institute of Research, Delhi & Mira Aditi,Mysore,2001,pg 125-131.

The Linguistic Perspective

‘… trying to reconstruct the evolution of language all the way to neolithic times is fraught with hazard. Yet that is exactly what Western linguists have tried to do with the “Indo-European family of languages” ever since the time of Bopp and Schleicher; by reconstructing a hypothetical 6000-year –old “proto-Indo-European” language from which Indo-Iranian (a supposed ancestor of both Sanskrit and Avestan), Greek, Latin, Germanic, etc, are all assumed to have derived. Linguistic thus remains the last refuse of the invasionists, who insist that the presence of Indo-European languages in Northern India is “proof” of the penetration of Indo-European peoples into the subcontinent. This stand was put in a nutshell by the great U.S linguist M.B. EMENEAU in 1954, with typical Western arrogance towards Indian tradition:

At some time in the second millennium BC…… a band or bands of speakers of an Indo-European language, later to be called Sanskrit, entered India over the northwest passes. This is our linguistic doctrine which has been held now more or more than a century and a half. There seems to be no reason to distrust the arguments for it, in spite of the traditional Hindu ignorance of any such invasion.(M.B.Emeneau, Collected Papers, Annamalai University,1967)

“Doctrine” is the right word indeed, in the absence of solid evidence and in view of the “Hindu ignorance”. As Shaffer put it in 1984, “Linguistic data were used [by the invasion theory] to validate the concept [of Indo-Aryans] that in turn was used to interpret archaeological and anthropological data. What was theory became unquestioned fact…. It is time to end this ‘linguistic tyranny’’.

Doubtless, it is legitimate to try and understand in what way languages are related and evolve over time and in geographical space; what is less legitimate is to insist on a one-and-only parent language, and a one-and-only region from which its speakers sprang to bestow upon the world the gift of their tongue, as if the mechanisms of language dispersion were as simple as that. Incidentally, this simplistic “linear” (or tree) model, though now clothed in highly technical jargon, can essentially be traced to the Biblical “one-and-onlyness” of the origin of man and language, a point Trautmann acknowledges with his usual clarity: “ This tree paradigm remains very much the foundation of historical linguistics to this day, although a kind of willful collective amnesia has tended to suppress its Biblical origins.”

Still, we should be ready to find merit in the Indo-European hypothesis if philologists and linguists, after almost two centuries of stupendous labour, could tell us with some precision where the Indo-Europeans’ homeland was located and when they emerged from it-but there’s the rub : even recently, linguists have given us areas ranging from Western Europe to the Caspian sea, with the steppes of Southern Russia on the way! Renfrew, criticizing “the simplistic use of such data [of comparative linguistics] to reach supposedly historical conclusions,” rightly notes that on linguistic grounds, the Indo-Europeans “ could probably be accommodated to almost any homeland theory.” (Renfrew also cogently argues for a “vastly greater time depth” than the 4500-3000 BC bracket usually proposed for the start of the dispersal.) This persistent inability of linguists to agree on even a broad area does nothing to inspire confidence, especially from a discipline that claims the status of almost an exact science.

A second point to note is the increasing rejection of the equating of language with ethnic groups: “Linguistic change and association are brought about by complex cultural processes which do not necessarily involve the movement of people,” as more and more scholars begin to recognize. So even a linguistic kinship need not entail an invasion or a mass migration.

A third point is that even accepting the essentials of modern Indo-European comparative linguistics (although there is no proof that a proto-Indo-European language ever existed) in no way requires the “doctrine” of an invasion into the subcontinent. Thus in the course of a recent remarkable study of most aspects of the Aryan invasion debate, the Belgian linguist and scholar Koenraad Elst carefully examined one by all elements of the supposed “linguistic evidence” and concluded:

The oft-invoked linguistic evidence for a European Urheimat [homeland] and for an Aryan invasion of India is completely wanting. One after another; the classical proofs of the European Urheimat theory have been discredited.

Elst in fact makes out a strong case for a linguistic dispersion originating from India in sixth millennium BC, a line two Indian linguists, Satya Swarup Misra and Shrikant Talageri had a few years earlier developed independently. In their meticulous studies, they argued (from slightly different viewpoints, but with similar conclusions) that the linguistic kinship between ancient India and the first cultures of Central Asia and Europe in fact points to migrations from India, such as those explicitly mentioned in the Veda and Puranas. Naturally, that is heresy to Western linguists, but if they are prepared to envisage homelands ranging from Western Europe to Bactria, why not travel a little farther and include India as a possibility, at least, especially when it agrees with archaeology and also Indian tradition?

A worse heresy has to do with the so-called unconnectedness of the Indo-European and Dravidian families of languages. One hardly needs to be a prophet to predict that this linguistic postulate will eventually be proved wrong. Of course, all depends on what “connection” means, and to what degree: everyone agrees that there are a number of similarities, but they are explained away by the convenient device of “borrowings” from Sanskrit b y ancient Tamil and vice versa. Thus Emeneau is forced to concede that “the end result of the borrowings is that the languages of the two families, Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, seem in many respects more akin to one another than Indo-Aryan does to the other Indo-European languages.” But very competent Indian scholars, who certainly have a more intimate knowledge of Indian languages than Western scholars can ever get, have argued that there is more to it than mere borrowings. For instance, in the 1920s we find R. Swaminathan Aiyar, a Tamil administrator, linguist and mathematician, and C. Narayana Rao, a Telugu scholar, who both conducted a wide-ranging scrutiny of the grammar and roots of South Indian languages. Swaminatha Aiyar found most Dravidian suffixes and other verb forms “ of Indo-Aryan origin,” and that “ the basic portion of Dravidian vocabularies consists of words of Indo-Aryan origin though….. these words have been greatly corrupted and are very difficult of recognition.” He did not hide that his views were “tantamount to a total negation of the current Dravidian theory in all its details.” Like Sri Aurobindo (whose work he does not seem to have been aware of), he found the connection between Tamil and Sanskrit to go back to pre-Vedic times. As for Narayana Rao, he too rejected much of Caldwell’s theory, whom he criticized for comparing South Indian languages to classical Sanskrit, while it is a comparison with Prakrit languages that brings forth a “close resemblance” (Marathi, for instance, is known to have many “Dravidian” elements). Narayana Rao therefore found it “impossible to conceive that … the Dravidian idioms could be considered other than Prakrits.”

Similar conclusions were reached more recently by scholars such as Satya Swarup Misra, whom we mentioned above, K.S. Srinivasan , N.R. Waradpande, Subhash Kak or S. Kalyanaraman. N.S. Rajaram, a mathematician and linguist from South India, remarks in a recent study of the Aryan question: “Dravidian languages are strongly inflected like Sanskrit, and cases and declensions are also quite similar…. In some ways these so-called Dravidian languages have preserved ancient forms and usages from Sanskrit better than North Indian languages like Hindi.”

The artificial gulf created between South and North Indian languages was, as we saw earlier, part of the Aryan invasion scheme. Poignantly but fittingly, the renowned South Indian dancer and scholar Padma Subrahmanyam, pleading against this linguistic divide, asks, “Is it not violence to my heritage?”

Let us add a word of caution and stress again that any model assuming a single, “confined” homeland for Indo-European languages at a single point in time, is doomed to obsolescence- whether the homeland is near the Caspian sea or in India- because it ignores the fact that “ prehistoric” life and cultures were far more complex than previously thought, a fact fresh archaeological findings keep confirming. Linguistic reconstructions, in Shaffer’s words again, neglect “too many intervening culture and historical variables to permit any degree of cross-cultural accuracy.” There is no reason why the evolution of language, which started with modern man some 100,000 years ago, should have been docile enough to conform to simplistic, linear models when there was nothing linear in actual life.

November, 2010

DWARKA—the lost city

Underwater explorations indicate the presence of an important city that got submerged in the sea off the coast in Gujarat. Such an important discovery is downplayed in both the media and in academic circles. Why? Presumably for three reasons:

(1) The date ‘fixed’ by Western academicians for the Mahabharata episode might have to be altered to an earlier period,
(2) The historicity of Krishna might need a serious thinking ,and
(3) The myth of the Aryan invasion theory would get a further setback.

IWe are excerpting passages from an overview on the topic by Michel Danino (The Invasion That Never Was; The Mother’s Institute of Research, Delhi and Mira Aditi, Mysore, 2000,2001):

Let us now pay a visit to Dwaraka, on the western tip of Saurashtra in Gujarat, the legendary town of Lord Krishna . Legendary? In the 1980s, underwater explorations of the modern town of Dwaraka, conducted by the National Institute of Oceanography under the direction of the well known archaeologist S.R.Rao, brought to light massive walls submerged at a depth of up to twelve metres, extending as far as 700 metres offshore, with "important structures such as fortwalls, gateways, bastions, mooring station." This revealed existence of a major ancient port, with a harbour line at least 1200 metres from the shore. Another submerged port was found off the nearby island of Bet-Dwaraka, which probably served as one of the gateways to the subcontinent. Huge stone anchors, pottery, several stone and iron objects, a few inscriptions in late Harappan script, have helped date the sites 1700- 1600BC. S. R. Rao has made out a case that the structures off Dwaraka and Bet-Dwarka fit the descriptions given in the Mahabharata. Thus the Mahabharata story of the submergence of Sri Krishna`s city can no longer be dismissed as a "Myth".

True, the dates provided do not fit with the traditional time ascribed to Sri Krishna; let us however venture to suggest that they must be regarded as a provisional lower limit, and that fuller exploration and excavation of the submerged structures, especially the farthest ones, may reveal more ancient relics and push the upper time limit back. In any case, even these “recent” dates place Dwaraka before the supposed arrival of Aryan tribes and therefore of “Aryan” Krishna. Moreover ,if, as archaeological evidence shows, Dwaraka was a late development of the Indus- Sarasvati civilization, what becomes of its association with the “Aryan” Mahabharata which, invasionists tell us, was written much later than the Indus age? Could this self-inflicted puzzle be the reason why S.R.Rao’s rediscovery of ancient Dwaraka has not attracted the degree of attention which that of ancient Troy by Schliemann did?

October, 2010

Saraswati

One of the most important evidences that nullify the Aryan invasion theory planted by the British is the archaeological evidence of the river Saraswati or Sarasvati whose bed was photographed and mapped by the American satellite Landstat. The Rig Veda mentions Ganges only once but praises the river Saraswati atleast 50 times. Francois Gautier in his book ‘Arise Again, O India’(Har-Anand Publications Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi,2001) emphasizes that the Rig Veda describes India before the great drought which dried up Saraswati. This drought has been estimated to have happened around 2200 BC, according to archeologist Paul-Henri Francfort. This indicates that there was no discontinuity between the Vedic epoch and the so-called Indus or Harappan civilization and that the assigned period for the composition of Vedas around 1200 to 1500 BC is grossly incorrect.

We have carried a write-up on the Saraswati by Prof. Kittu Reddy in the ‘Vision of Unity’ section. We are here reproducing a brilliant archeological overview of Saraswati and its relevance to history by excerpting passages from Michel Danino’s writings (The Invasion That Never Was, Michel Danino, Song of Humanity, Sujata Nahar; The Mother’s Institute of Research, Delhi and Mira Aditi, Mysore, 2nd edition, 2001 ,pgs 111-116).

The Mighty Sarasvati

In a number of its hymns, the Rig-Veda lavishly honours the river Sarasvati…. The lost river has been found again -- rather its long dried- up bed, traced science the late nineteenth century by numerous archeologists and geologists, and confirmed since the 1970s by satellite photography(LANDSAT imagery in particular). It flowed down from the SIWALIK Hills at the foot of the Himalayas, touched the plains near Ambala in Punjab, flowed through the Ghaggar valley in Haryana and Rajasthan,and its continuation called Hakra in Pakistan’s desert of Cholistan, in a course roughly parallel to the Indus, finally reaching the upper Rann of Kutch through the Nara valley. There it emptied into the Arabian Sea through a huge delta which extended from the present delta of the Indus possibly to that of the Narmada.

It was indeed a mighty river(the Ghaggar valley is eight kilometers wide on average, twelve in places),and at one time it had the Sultej and the Yamuna as its tributaries; the Sarasvati system seems to have been fed by the millennial melting of the icecaps and glaciers accumulated in the Himalayas during the last Ice Age, which ended about 10000 BC. Detailed studies have shown that the Sarasvati changed course several (up to seven) times owing to floods, but also to earthquakes (which according to most experts, diverted the Sutlej towards the Indus and the Yamuna eastward into the Ganga). Evidence of strong seismic activity has in fact been found at several Harappan sites in the region (Kalibangan ,for instance).There are also signs of an “abrupt climatic change” and prolonged drought(2200-1900BC) in the whole of West and South Asia, which must have contributed to the Sarasvati’s break-up into several segments and its final drying up around 2000-1900 BC. Interestingly a 1995 study conducted by the Bhaba Atomic Research Center (BARC) in parts of Rajasthan has found that even in extreme desert conditions, water remains available at a depth of fifty to sixty metres along one course of the “defunct river” in the north-western part of the Jaisalmer district, and that the area supports vegetation even during the torrid Rajasthani summer. Radiocarbon measurements have shown that no modern recharge of the aquifer is discernible and have found water samples to be “a few thousand years old”. The scientists conclude,”Freshwater high lake level conditions prevailed until about 2000BC”, in agreement with earlier findings form archaeology and geology. The Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI), Jodhpur also mapped some of the buried courses of the Sarasvati through satellite imagery, aerial photographs and field surveys.

It is noteworthy that from the nineteenth century onward, what first guided archeologists in their quest for the “lost Sarasvati” was not only its description in the Rig-Veda (whose nadi sukta as we saw, locates the river precisely between the Yamuna and the Sutlej), but also local tradition, especially that which still identifies with the lost Vedic river today’s small and now seasonal Sarasvati in Haryana and Punjab, which joins with Ghaggar. This is all the more remarkable as this tradition has been carried for no less than 4000 years. Moreover, we find in the Rig-Veda, the Mahabharata and several Puranas hints to the rivers location (in the form of holy places), its physical characteristic, even the stage of its drying: for instance, the Rig-Veda says the great river flowed “from the mountain to the ocean”, while the Mahabharata describes it as “disappearing into the desert” or even “lost”, which suggests it had lost the Yamuna and the Sutlej by then. Yet the invasion theory forcibly dates all these scriptures later than 1000 BC, a thousand years after the Sarasvati went dry.

As a matter of fact, archaeologists did not just discover a dry bed: they found over 700 Indus-Sarasvati sites of all sizes along its course and tributaries (about 300 of which are “mature”), against only 200 or so along the Indus. Among the better known sites along the Sarasvati we find, moving downstream, Bhagwanpura, Kunal, Banawali, Kalibangan, Ganweriwala. The Allchins, for instance, note that it was from the most moving experience to stand on the mound at Kalibangan, and to see still preserved in the modern cropping the area of the flood plain of the Sarasvati still clearly visible. The sheer density of sites in the Sarasvati valley shows the inadequacy of the old name of “Indus valley civilization”. After Independence, hundreds of sites were found in Indian Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, while in Pakistan’s Cholistan desert alone, the Pakistani archaeologist M. R. Mughal counted over 400 sites! The presence of all those settlements along the Sarasvati provides the clearest proof of the Vedic nature of the Harappan civilization. The Indian archaeologist Dilip Kumar Chakrabarti, for example notes: “The location of the epicenter of the Indus civilization in the Sarasvati Drishadvati system is, according to us, a definite indication that this civilization was speaking an early form of Sanskrit".

In effect, the rediscovery of Sarasvati deals a death -blow to the invasion theory. Who will believe that the Aryans crossed up to six great rivers—the Indus and all its tributaries—only to settle down on the banks of a river that had gone dry five hundred year earlier, and went on to worship this dry bed as the “best of mothers, best of rivers, best of goddesses”. It is clear that the Vedic people who sang hymns in praise of the Sarasvati lived along its banks while it was in full flow.This is a point Western archaeologists, through agreeing that the Ghaggar- Hakra was the Sarasvati, are reluctant to face, since it clashes with the conservative chronology of Indian scriptures. Kenoyer, for instance writes:

In the east, the ancient Sarasvati river ran parallel to the Indus…..Towards the end of the Indus valley civilization, the ancient Sarasvati was totally dried up……{Its} gradual drying up is an event documented both geologically as well as in the sacred Vedic and Brahmanical literature of ancient India….. Many episodes of the Rig-Veda take place along the sacred Sarasvati.

This is indeed the now accepted view, and we could therefore expect to be informed that the Rig-Vedic people and the Harappans were the same –the only logical conclusion if the Veda’s episodes “take place along the sacred Sarasvati “which totally dried up towards the end of the Indus valley civilization. Only one civilization has been found along the Sarasvati, not two. But, as a meticulous archaeologist, Kenoyer is understandably cautious in challenging Indologists in their own field, and does not conclude.

Possehl comes closer to a conclusion in his new book. In a thorough review of the Sarasvati’s evolution, he endorses the accepted chronology actually founded in archaeological data and the study of settlement patterns of the Indus age, according to which “at the end of the third millennium the strong flow from the Sarasvati dried up”. Possehl then observes:

This carries with it an interesting chronological implication :the composers of the Rgveda were in the Sarasvati region prior to the drying up of the river and this would be closer than 2000 BC than it is to 1000 BC, somewhat earlier than most of the conventional chronologies for the presence of the Vedic Aryans in the Punjab.

The wording, though clear, remains diffident: “somewhat earlier” is hardly suitable for a whole millennium, especially when the composers of the Rig-Veda must have been there much before 2000BC, when the Sarasvati was “unbroken,” not in the process of drying- and that may take us back to 2500-3000 BC, according to archaeological and geological data.

The “chronological implication” is unambiguous : unless we are prepared to maintain that the Vedic-Rishis talked nonsense, knew nothing of their own geography, and, just to mislead us, located an “unbroken Sarasvati” precisely where a dry bed dotted with hundreds of Harappan sites has been found, the equation “Rig-Vedic people= Sarasvati in full flow= Harappan times” is inescapable.

September, 2010

THE ARYAN MYTH AND ITS POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS (continued)

The exploitation of Ambedkar’s profile

The hypothesized Dalit versus Brahminical (read Aryan) conflict in contemporary India is sustained largely by political forces with an eye on the electorate and supported by a section of academicians with vested interests. The civil society and the genuine social activists are by and large not involved as the Indian government has been pursuing a liberal policy where reservations for the downtrodden castes have been made in the spheres of education and employment. T he motivated misinformation that led to this conflict was utilized in British India by missionaries for religious conversion of the downtrodden (who became deprived by the British loot of India’s wealth and lack of education). The legacy is carried by a section of Indian politicians for conversion of votes in their favors. Their agenda gets credibility due to the age-old caste prejudice which again is a politician’s delight.

However, to sustain such a campaign of misinformation, an icon is needed. It is difficult for the present-day politicians to be icons. In a world of globalization and media exposure, the corruption of contemporary politicians spreads fast. Hence it is much safe to hold on to a revered figure of the past. Who else can fit in that role than the late B.R.Ambedkar. He himself came from a lower caste but emerged as one of the most respected figures who shaped and drafted the Indian Constitution. He was genuinely interested in the upliftment of the lower castes and the untouchables. He eulogized Buddhism in his later years but that was for ideological purpose and not for any narrow political gain. He has been given a messiah like status in caste-based politics. Scores of his statues have been erected all over India so that his name gets the same status as Lord Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi. The only unfortunate thing is that in the zeal for cheap publicity and a quick buck, most of his statues lack in finesse and artistry. This great man’s honor has been unnecessarily misused for petty gains.

In this context, it would be relevant to know Ambedkar’s views on the Aryan invasion hypothesis. Ambedkar was a serious scholar who sought the root of things. Michel Danino(The invasion that never was, The Mother’s Institute of Research, Delhi & Mira Aditi, Mysore, 2nd ed,2001) quotes Ambedkar and regrets that his views are ignored by those who profess to follow his lead:

‘’The theory of invasion is an invention. This invention is necessary because of a gratuitous assumption that the Indo-Germanic people are the purest of the modern representatives of the original Aryan race. The theory is based upon nothing but pleasing assumptions , and inferences based on such assumptions. T he theory is a perversion of scientific investigation. It is not allowed to evolve out of facts. On the contrary, the theory is preconceived and facts are selected to prove it. It falls to the ground at every point.”(B.R.Ambedkar, quoted by D.B.Thengadi in The Perspective, Sahitya Sindhu Prakashan)

Ambedkar’s conclusions:
  1. The Vedas do not know any such race as the Aryan race.

  2. There is no evidence in the Vedas of any invasion of India by the Aryan race and its having conquered the Dasas and Dasyus supposed to be the natives of India.

  3. There is no evidence to show that the distinction between Aryans, Dasas and Dasyus was a racial distinction.

  4. The Vedas do not support the contention that the Aryas were different in colour from the Dasas and Dasyus…

    If anthropometry is a science which can be depended upon to determine the race of a people..(then its) measurements establish that the Brahmins and the Untouchables belong to the same race. From this it follows that if the Brahmins are Aryans the Untouchables are also Aryans. If the Brahmins are Dravidians, the untouchables are also Dravidians…”(B.R.Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches. Education Department, Govt. of Maharashtra,Vol.7, 1986-1990.Also quoted in Indigenous Indians-Agastya to Ambedkar, by Koenraad Elst)

    It is an irony that Ambedkar’s professed political followers are ignorant of his views and that many contemporary academicians distort historical facts. It is high time that the Aryan invasion myth should be given a decent burial.

August, 2010

THE ARYAN MYTH AND ITS POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS

Note: Whenever we talk about divisive issues in South Asia, the Aryan versus Non-Aryan conflict takes a centre-stage. The ‘conflict’ is hypothetical and conjectural and yet has succeeded in inspiring and maintaining two entirely different and distinct political movements in contemporary India that act directly and decisively on the electoral mind-set, influencing the composition of the Central government and certain State governments:

  1. The Aryan-Dravidian conflict forwarded by motivated British academicians stimulated the formation of ‘Dravidian’ political parties in Southern India who began to look at North Indian political parties of the Hindi speaking belt with suspicion as Hindi was a derivative of Sanskrit, the language of the Aryans. The ramifications were two-fold. Firstly, there were severe anti-Hindi agitations bordering to riots. Secondly, within the South Indian community itself, the Tamil Brahmins were alienated as they performed their worshipping rituals in Sanskrit and they were also considered to be descendents of migrant Aryans. Till today, the state government in Tamilnadu cannot be formed without overriding the Dravidian factor and the Central Government at New Delhi cannot be consolidated without accommodating the Dravidian interests. It is also interesting that other than the age-old Hindu-Muslim discord, the Dravidian conflict in India preceded other separatist conflicts like the North-Eastern conflicts, the Khalistani agitation, the Gorkhaland struggle.

  2. The Dalit-Brahminical divide is being in a way imposed on the downtrodden masses in North India by political interests which want to sustain the caste divide for electoral advantage .The phenomenon is contemporary but the justification used to sustain it is derived from the Aryan versus Non-Aryan hypothesis. The Dravidians have been replaced by the Dalits, a terminology used by Gandhi in a different context. The movement has been extraordinarily successful as in a way it seeks to compensate for the actual discriminations inflicted on the lower castes by the higher castes. It is a logical outcome of India’s inability to solve the age-old caste divide. The only danger is that instead of a synthetic movement, the overemphasis on the Aryan myth can deepen the fissure.

Self-Correcting movements

The resilience of the Indian cultural fabric is that it has the potentiality of self-correction. That is the magic of the Indian tradition. Ever since contemporary Indian historians have begun to question the legitimacy of the hypothesized Aryan-Dravidian conflict, certain self-correcting movements have started occurring. These movements are not logically related, not intentionally timed, not pragmatically motivated, but nevertheless phenomenally correlated. As of now, they appear scattered in space and time. May be, they can fall in place like pieces in a jig-saw puzzle in the Zeitgeist of History. Two such self-correcting movements are worth mentioning:

  1. Sri Aurobindo had started to probe if ancient Indian literature, including that of Southern India had traces of the Aryan-Dravidian conflict. He found none as cultural differences do not necessarily imply racial differences. Instead he found that his study of Tamil gave him the ‘clue to the very origins and structure of the ancient Sanskrit tongue’ (The Secret of the Veda, pg.  46 ) and the very keys with which he could unlock the hereto unexplained mysteries of the Vedas. Incidentally, his chosen abode where his ashram was established was in ancient times a seat of Veda-learning in South India and was called VedPuri. In the fitness of things, there has been a sudden efflorescence of interest, devotion, adoration, acceptance and acknowledgement of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother in the imagination, consciousness and psyche of South India. It is as if the Divine itself has taken the onus for integrating the consciousness of the Indian psyche and resolving the artificially real Aryan-Dravidian conflict from a deeper, spiritual perspective.

  2. In North India when the caste politics reached its acme, the self-proclaimed messiah of the Dalits  ( a synonym for the oppressed lower castes) whose bastion was formed by spewing venom against the Brahminical (Aryan) tradition, suddenly for a change announced  formation of a government with the support of the higher castes. This gesture was received gracefully by all sections of the society. Ironically, there is doubt if the same gesture would be equally received if made by a ‘Brahminical’, upper caste politician. The wind of change was thus initiated within the system itself paving way for a future synthesis.

Date of Update: 18-Nov-11

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

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