Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Will India Ever be a Nation with Rule of Law , Unlikely!


Will India Ever be a Nation with Rule of Law , Unlikely!

Incredible Scam-a-day India


K Gajendra Singh 28 December, 2010

 

Asatyamev Jayate (untruth prevails) has become India's new liet motif


"I feel the prime minister has lost complete control of the government. Sonia Gandhi has lost control over the political processes and of the Congress party."
Arun Shourie , a former editor and later BJP minister. 

 

Look at the scams being uncovered everyday and the total lawlessness in all facets of Indian polity ; moral , ethical ,political, economic, social, and others .It brings to mind US Ambassador John Galbraith's charitable description of India in 1960s as a functioning anarchy .Since then India has morphed into a dysfunctional anarchy . It has become a land of banana plantations.

 

What is wrong with India that is Bharat. Let us look at the fundamentals since minor surgeries will not cure the cancer in the body politic.

 

First ; What is rule of law.

 

Rule of law is a Semitic contribution to human civilization .

 

An eye for an eye – Hammurabi

 

If an eye is not taken for an eye aka guilty not punished then lawlessness will take over .This Semite tribal thesis and custom was codified as part of the the Hammurabi Code , which formed the basis of law in Semite lands .It later became the core of  Christian and Islamic civilizations .In Europe it was further refined.

 

Rule of Law or equality of all before the law evolved in Europe following the Reformation and the Renaissance .

 

The current rule of law as acknowledged and accepted is basically a European construct ,which evolved over a long period through revolutions and evolutions, along with the concept of a modern state and the nation .It emerged after centuries of wars among the Popes ,Holy Emperors and kings and other religious leaders and barons and finally ; common people rose and fought for equality for all citizens and rule of law .A King was guillotined in France , Czar assassinated in Russia ,Ottoman Caliph fled Turkey , as did Chiang Kai Sheik in China and the Shah-in-Shah  from Iran and some others  elsewhere too.

 

The concept of duties of a citizen and of the ruler evolved and was codified in Europe helped by development of political , economic , social and ethical thought .It is only then that the concept of a nation and equality before law emerged and slowly took hold. These were then transmitted to colonies in America , Asia and Africa and implemented and accepted with different levels of success .

 

India has not gone through any such metamorphosis as yet . Nor is it likely any time soon .Eating  lentils and Lokki vegetables keeps the blood pressure down .So do not hold your breath .Yes there are revolts and rebellions in north East ,in Kashmir and increasing large swathes of areas where rights of tribal's have been usurped ,reduced to misery they are now coming under Maoist influence and sway. But the corrupt political elite controls the coercive machinery , where admission to join as a lowly constable costs a hefty bribe .The life imprisonment for a human rights activist Binayak Sen against abuse of Tribal Rights is a case in point of the injustice of the stuation.  .

 

Hindu outlook and law.

 

Poet AK Ramanujam said that Indians don't seem to have a sense of absolute .They place everything in some context or the other. And, depending on the context, what the rest of the world would regard as being wrong in the absolute sense, becomes quite all right in India.

 

All this is supported even by our epics , Ramayana and Mahabharata .Trickery by the great and noble  warrior of Ramayana , Lord Rama in killing his opponent Bali while hiding behind a tree or in the Mahabharata war ,the apostle of truth Pandava Yudhister  proclaiming the death of Aswathama (elephant) for military gains are all lauded , accepted and readily employed in daily life , specially by the new political leadership which has emerged from the grass roots, not versed in western concept of  the rule of law .

 

Thus Indians in general have little sense or respect for rule of law. Their concept is very flexible. Show me the man and I will show you the law depending on the situation. There is almost total unanimity in applying rules and laws contextually for personal gains and advantage.

 

Thus India is not a nation in the European sense and even in many other ways .Identity is still caste based not only in India but to quite some extent even in Pakistan and Bangladesh too .Among the Muslims , supposedly an egalitarian religion ,the caste has been replaced by Ashraffs (migrants from Arabia, central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan ) and high caste converts , mostly Rajputs and Jats , who are considered superior to converts from lower castes and untouchables .The caste malady exists among Sikhs too as manifested by recurrent resistance by low caste Sikhs against Jat Sikh domination in religious and political institutions . Christians in Kerala have separate caste based churches. Even in the most highly educated state in India , politics is caste and religion based. Thus education is no panacea .

 

Let me give a few examples .When I made my first call in Cairo in 1962 on my first ambassador Azim Hussien ICS , on my telling him that I am a Rajput , he could not contain himself and smiled and blurted  ,'You know ,I am a Rathore Rajput' .Son of Fazli Hussein , pre-partition chief minister of  Punjab , who ruled the state in coalition with Jat leader Chhotu Ram , Azim Hussein was otherwise very reserved ,taciturn and aloof. While posted in Ankara (1992-96) I visited Bucharest where I was head of mission (1981-84) and was invited for dinner by Ambassador Julio Ribeiro , a former police chief of Maharashtra and Punjab . Even before I had a few sips of the whisky, he said ,'You know I am a Chitpavan Brahmin'.

 

A retired Indian Ambassador Surendra Kumar wrote a piece for  Tribune, Chandigarh about the antics of Indian parliamentarians of all castes and parties about caste based census  .He then narrated from personal experience how Indians were not satisfied unless they found out his caste , when he encountered them. These included high caste top civil servants , diplomats and politicians , who were or rose to become vice-presidents and presidents of India .

 

Upward movement in India's caste system ?

 

Eminent Indian sociologist M.N.Srinivas, propounded the theory of Sanskritisation as the process by which castes placed lower in the caste hierarchy seek upward mobility , based on an ethnographical study of the Coorg Community of south Karnataka, India.

Srinivas defined Sanskritisation as a process by which "a 'low' Hindu caste, or tribal or other group, changes its customs, ritual ideology, and way of life in the direction of a high and frequently 'twice-born' caste. Generally such changes are followed by a claim to a higher position in the caste hierarchy than that traditionally conceded to the claimant class by the local community..."

One clear example of Sanskritisation is the acceptance, imitating the practice of twice-born castes, of vegetarianism by people belonging to the so-called low castes, who are traditionally not averse to non-vegetarian food.

 

Looked from another angle , Sanskritisation is but (cultural) 'colonization' of society that entails the imposition of a set of beliefs, social structures and practices (Brahmanism) upon the Hindu society, allowing it to take root progressively and in a top-down (NOT bottom-up) manner by first inducting the upper / ruling classes of the native population.

The British colonialism could be called Anglicization, defining it as a process by which the natives of India sought upward mobility by emulating the ways and manners of the British lords who chose to spend some time in India as part of their global mission to 'spread civilization' (and, incidentally, economic restructuring aka looting their subjectst )

We will not discuss Hindu beliefs and relevance or importance of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and all that goes by the name of Hindu scriptures, and therefore in avatars and rebirth, the varnashram dharma or varna-vyavastha either in the sense in which it is explained in Hindu dharma shastras like Manusmriti or in the so-called Vedic sense and the Hindu taboo of not eating beef or the idol-worship and other such controversial matters.

High caste Imperialism

Thus we can also say that while imperialists divided the subject races to rule over them ,Brahmins , since time immemorial have divided the Hindu society,to rule over them as the highest rule making caste. They gave religious sanction and fear of hell and uncounted births as non humans and other untold tortures and miseries , if the non Brahmins wavered from the caste based Dharma and obligations , mostly for the benefit of the higher castes at the cost of those lower down.

In this Brahmin ordained apartheid like systemic cancer since millennia there has not been much weakening since 1947 or even in the equality of the sexes guaranteed by the Constitution. The women in real life remain relegated by the religiously enforced grading led by Brahmin fraternity , warriors and nominally ruling caste of Kshatriyas , the trading and agriculture community of Vaishyas and even the Dalits ( who in the countryside still remain untouchables). While for political reasons the reservations in Assemblies and for jobs have distributed benefits unevenly to Dalits and Tribes but Muslims have now ended as the new untouchables as brought out in the prevailing discriminations against them by various studies and reports. Even rich and respectable Muslims are refused flats by Hindu dominated building societies.

But the situation of women still remains unenviable .A girl child is still given food the last in the family , so it is with her education ,with female foetuscide ,bride burning for dowry or maltreatment of widows. A few years ago , Shankaracharya of Puri declared that women have no right to learn Sanskrit the language of Hindu Shashtras or read Vedas. A Shankaracharya , mostly a Brahmin ,tries to be like an Ayatollah Khomeini ,a jurist –consult in Shia Iran, to maintain Brahminical control over Hindu society and has been used to deny education to non-Brahmins and women. Brahmins , about five percent of India's population including obscurantist cranks and charlatans  continue to rule the spiritual life and flourish all over India ,with many of them named Ananda (bliss ) spreading swamis ,preachers and priests on religious TV channels . Some have been charged with , molestation ,rapes and other crimes somewhat like Catholic priests all over the world.

 

When I write about the damage done to Indian polity and people specially to the Dalits by Brahmins by keeping it fossilized for their benefit , many Brahmin friends protest vehemently and narrate the contributions by Brahmin scholars since ancient times ,including in the field of science , mathematics and engineering , apart from spiritual, religious and cultural fields. My response is if five /six percent of educated Brahmins could contribute so much what if they had not deprived the rest of the society of education , specially of Sanskrit .And Finally just try to imagine yourself in the position of a Dalit and how will you or your children will react if put to the same torture , discriminations ,deprivation of education and social intercourse.

 

It is not necessary to read the writings of Dr Ambedkar, Kancha Ilahia and others which make for very disturbing readings for any human being. Said Ilahia for example in an interview a few years ago , even now the "key areas such as higher education have come under their [brahmanical] control. --, in the post-buddhist/ jaina period, temple power... characterised as hindu power, very securely remained in the hands of the brahman priestly class. This power arrested the hindu gods/ goddesses images in the tight grip of the brahmans -- a small caste in the all-India context. This spiritual power not only casteised the divine, but also reserved the highly resourceful temple-based funds for one caste -- the brahmans. All the wealth coming from the masses as well as the state was converted into a huge economic resource of this caste. During the nearly eighty-year RSS-led campaign for 'homogenous hindu nationalist unity', they have not talked about: one, the right to initiation [dwijahood?] of the shudra, chandala, adivasis (SCAs); two, no right to priesthood was given to them; three, the age-old brahmanic notion of Sanskrit being the language between people and gods was deliberately not sought to be changed; four, while all the SCAs were 'meatarians', the spiritual authority was confined to those who followed the vegetarian food culture."

 

Ilahia explains–"The brahmanic assertion started in the early nationalist period. The Maharashtra chitpavan brahmans and the Bengal, U.P., Bihar brahmans organised the early nationalist movement as basically a brahmanic movement against christianity. The larger term 'hindu' became more popular only when Gandhi, a baniya, and a kayastha like Rajendra Prasad entered the Indian National Congress. Beyond the 'brahman boundary' hinduism was sought to be constructed by a kayastha man like Vivekananda... but even today in the temples of hinduism he is not a respected or worshipped saint. He basically emerged form the bengali nonbrahman Kali cult and was drawn towards the nationalist hindutva ideology. That is why he is portrayed as a hindu hero in the political realm of RSS hinduism, but not in the spiritual realm controlled by priestly brahmans... The brahmans within the Sangh Parivar and the priestly class in the temples respect and worship the Shankaracharya(s)... to some extent Dayanand Saraswati... but they do not respect Vivekananda and Gandhi. As I said in my DC article, Gandhi was killed by chitpavan brahmans. But nobody knows the cause of the early death of Vivekananda. He was said to have died at the age of 33 and he was a very healthy person all through his life. The mystery of his death should therefore be unravelled... The anti-SCA and anti-woman ideology of hindutva used (appropriated) different historical images as was suited to it... but it failed to convince the priestly brahman caste to decaste the hindu temple system—"

The organization of Jat and other Khapps ( caste councils ) in north India are nothing but maintaining the caste purity as laid down by Brahmin designed system described as tradition  reeti or 'Dharma'. The obscurantist medieval custom of honour killings ordered by khaps for marrying outside the caste and out casting of the families of the victims is still a common practice in many parts of India , specially in the north .The Khaps even want modern Constitution based laws on marriage and social intercourse be reversed and take the country back to medieval practices.

Pinstriped Brahmin led Khaps in external affairs ministry

 

For almost half a century pinstriped Brahmin led Khaps in external affairs ministry ,in total violation of India's Constitution, destroyed many diplomats'  lives and careers for wishing or marrying foreigners. Thus the medieval mindset permeates even in the so called modern highly educated milieu . Brahmin Foreign Secretaries persisted in this obscurantist attitude to the end eg with a vindictive  Maharajkumar Rasgotra telling a lie ( on record with eminent journalist Jyoti Malhotra ) and Venkateshwaran dismissing legal opinions of Justice Rajender Sachchar and eminent legal luminary Soli Sorabji that the Ministry's rule on the subject was ultravires of the Constitution with Tamban arrogance and disdain. The Ministry had never once consulted the ministry of law on this rule since 1947 . It only highlights Brahmins belief in their manifest destiny to lay down the law as they see it and even defy the law of the land .(Watch this space for full story)

 

The caste system is still rigidly followed outside the metros.I request my Brahmin and other high caste friends who protest against my observations and conclusions to just venture into the countryside .

 

Evolution of Indian polity !
From the 7th to the 11th century, lack of interaction between Indians and their Iranian cousins and others in Central Asia, conquered and dominated by Arab-led Islamic forces, made India inward looking and fossilized its caste-based polity. Indian polity lost its mobility, resilience ( as claimed by Brahmins and some others ) and the capacity to synthesize and assimilate new ideas. It went on the defensive against the conquering Islamic religion and Muslim polity. It withdrew into its own shell and became frozen. But rigid caste based hierarchy and rules of conduct were implemented with even greater severity as mostly happens to societies under siege .And so it remained throughout the Muslim rule and British rule over Hindustan. The latter only perpetuated the static nature of Hindu polity, reducing Indian rulers as their menial aides, notwithstanding some social reform ripples. Indians never had a revolution, like the French, Americans, Russians or the Chinese or the Turks and Iranians , which did away with all outdated and obscurantist feudal systems and medieval practices .

 

The Dharma (religion and duty), put one in one's place. A headman's son could aspire to be a headmen, an untouchable would remain an untouchable.

Yes ,the process of peaceful massive social engineering through competitive party politics and reservations in favor of the disadvantaged since independence has unleashed social, political and economic forces hitherto unseen in Indian history, in the process rearranging the powers by the castes .  It shattered the Brahmin-imposed village autonomy based on a rigid hierarchy of priests, landowners, traders, artisans and untouchables, which had survived Muslim and British rule.

Soon, former bus conductors, petty smugglers, village pehelwans (wrestlers), and the progeny of peons could rise to the highest levels of government as chief ministers and cabinet ministers, as shown by the Lals of Haryana, the Yadavs of Uttar Pradesh and others. Imagine the creative and other energies released into the system, with the profession of politics providing an ambitious and determined person, but poor, uneducated, socially and economically disadvantaged, the opportunity to work his or her way up the system.

Unfortunately, in this free-for-all environment, without the constraints of the  rule of law , many criminal elements, after first helping the politicians in vote "gathering and controlling", soon muscled their way into the halls of power .Slowly the system's so called inbuilt resilience for corrective action through independent institutions was eroded. After watching the slide into dishonesty, chicanery and total disregard for all civic norms, first the Election Commission and then the Supreme Court took some measures to strengthen these independent institutions, but with little success so far.

Chief Justice Verma's initiative and recommendations for an independent Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVO) , and a Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) under him and an Enforcement Directorate have been undone by the corrupt ruling classes across the political spectrum. This can be seen by the current controversy on the appointment of the new CVO with dubious integrity. The political elite refuses to give constitutional authority and independence to the office of CVO or CBI .  In the current pointless cacophony politicians have rightly criticized the bias of CVC and CBI but they have not demanded statutory and constitutional independence to these offices .  They want to continue to misuse these offices by appointing pliable civil servants when in power.

 

The "Hindu" perception of Dharma and the rule of law is often quite ambivalent. Hindus believe that by propitiating local deities and gods (now the local politician, now the police sub-inspector), one can escape punishment. For the implementation of the rule of law with the proper checks and balances of a truly democratic system the institutions of the judiciary and the media, so easily tempted by wily politicians, have to be above suspicion and exercise their duties without fear and favor , have been co-opted.

Post-independence Brahmin dominance
Soon after independence in 1947, the lawyer-led Brahmin-dominated Congress party, with electoral support from the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (dalits) and post-partition defensive Muslims ,for no fault of majority of them , ruled India, with the Brahmins monopolizing the levers of power.  Majority of the cabinet ministers were Brahmins .


Soon the number of Brahmins occupying senior government posts doubled , which were earlier dominated by Kayasthas , defacto almost a caste of bureaucrats since the Moghul era in India . From the mid-1960s, at the ideological economic level, the new Congress elite was opposed by maharajas, big industrialists, traders, landlords and free marketeers through the Swantantra Party, and at the social level this elite was challenged by Jats, Yadavs, Ahirs and Kurmis, that is, petty landlords and cultivators who had benefited the most from the post-independence abolition of zamindari (tax collection on land).

The challenge was first led by Chaudhary Charan Singh, a Jat, and then by various Lals of Haryana, Mirdhas of Rajasthan and the Yadavs of the cow belt. But this process left the Dalits squeezed out. Prime minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh, leading a minority coalition government, panicked in 1990 and resorted to the "Mandal card" (further reservations for other backward classes, OBCs) to outflank his deputy, the overbearing Devi Lal, leader of the Jats (not included in the OBC list then). It was a devastating mistake in instituting and promoting divisiveness in the polity.

But it did initiate the loosening of the heterogeneous OBC grouping. Disenchanted with the "Yadavs only" policies of Laloo Yadav, the Kurmis in Bihar founded their own Samata Party. At the lowest rung of the ladder, the dalits, first organized by B R Ambedkar in the 1930s through the Republican Party of India, gathered under the umbrella of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Kansi Ram, and then under Mayawati in the north. She now leads the government in the largest state Uttar Pradesh in north India .She has outdone the Brahmins and other high caste leaders in building statues for their leaders and naming streets , towns to honour Dalit leaders , mostly Buddhists , a religion which the Brahmins squeezed out of India , while it continues to flourish outside India specially in Asia .This shows the power of Brahmin enforced Dharma to guard its flock and maintain domination .One of the major weaknesses of the Hindu religion is its  rigid norms of purity , which force those converting back to Hindu religion back into their original low castes ,the main reason they left to become Muslims and Christians to feel at par with the then ruling elite and escape Brahmin laid torture ,discrimination and deprivation.

But many Dalits also seem unhappy from the weight of the creamy layer of Jatavs, Minas and others who have become the major beneficiary and become the "neo- Brahmins" .But having been deprived , discriminated and tortured by upper castes since millennia ,they are happy to see their caste persons occupying positions earlier monopolized by higher castes. The majority non-Brahmins in Tamil Nadu, and land-owning elements in Telgu Desam, Kanara and the Maharathas have already asserted themselves against Brahmin domination and squeezed out Brahmins from posts under political patronage . Thus the process of the heterogeneous and frozen polity being split into myriad pieces of castes and sub-castes still continues.

Do as I tell you to do and not what I do myself
But all in all the results since independence have been somewhat distressing , depressing and counterproductive in promoting equality ,nationhood and the rule of law .New families /dynasties from OBCs and other lower castes and classes have become the neo Brahmins and occupy the top ladder in their caste groups as do Brahmins among Hindus .They copy and behave like Brahmins ie behave as if they are above the law. They do not want equality of all before law .So it has not and unlikely to bring about equality before the law.
The entrenchment of caste system has only been strengthened because India copied the flawed and unsuitable British Electoral Law of the first past the post for elections which was OK in UK because of their history and political evolution . (British is a highly stratified polity :us and they )   . This does not speak well about our so called wise men who framed India's Constitution .Britain had evolved a two party system after many centuries while no such experience or evolution existed in India prior to 1947 nor it appeared then that it might evolve any time soon .It should have been obvious that India's heterogeneity needed a different  electoral system .Perhaps it was a clever strategy by the Brahmins , who ,however gave credit to a Dalit leader Ambedkar as the father of the Indian Constitution. Cleverer than even the perfidious Albion .
The irrational outcome is that any united caste group with even 25% of the population in a state can acquire power after getting around 35% of the votes cast .This regularly happens in Haryana where Jats with about 20% of the total population rule the roost .Lalu Yadav misruled Bihar for 15 years combining Yadavas ( less than 20 % ) and Muslims .The manifestoes cater for caste groupings only , a fraction of the total electorate .All political offices are then cornered by the family and the caste group .All political parties nominate candidates based on caste calculations .Thus the caste and sub-caste divisions have been strengthened.
As far as coverage of foreign affairs is concerned ,Indian media's record remains abysmal, relying and bribed by Western nations specially USA, where five  corporate conglomerates of financial military-industry , energy , communication interests dominate 90% of the media.  But even on internal affairs , Indian media mostly owned by corporate houses , who are faithful allies and followers of the fast declining US led liberal capitalist system ,is equally unsatisfactory .Truth comes out by default as sections of media owned by one political or financial group expose the other side.
Elections in Bihar
On recent elections in Bihar , Indian media  was again info-challenged and incorrect .Prior to the elections forecasts were made about the victory of development policies of the incumbent leader of the least developed OBCs , Nitish Kumar .Almost predicting that he might even get majority on his own without its alliance partner .( It is as well that the trivia and celerity obsessed TV channels , easily influenced by money and political clout have been barred from forecasting biased opinion polls before the elections are complete .The exaggerated role of development under Kumar to falsely claim that the beast of casteism has been tamed is much off the mark .Caste based politics emerged victorious again.
After the disastrous 15 years of misrule by comedian dhoort Yadav leader Lalu , development , law and order could only improve .What Nitish has done , is to  create a new caste calculus .He has denied development benefits to Yadavas of Lalu and Dalit subcaste of Ram Vilas Paswan , who fought the elections in alliance and directed them to his new caste combination .He also gave attention and gave financial and other benefits to women at large ,thus successfully courted them.

 

Nitish's Janata Dal ( JD(U) and rightwing Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance won the election with a huge margin. It won 206 assembly seats (63 seats more than in the 2005 assembly election) while the nearest rival, RJD-LJP, managed a mere 25 (39 seats less than their total tally in 2005). The Congress managed only four assembly seats (five less than 2005). The Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) won one seat each while independent candidates got six seats. In terms of votes, the JD(U)-BJP alliance polled 39.1 per cent votes leading the RJD-LJP alliance by 13.5 per cent votes (RJD-LJP polled 25.6 per cent of the votes).

According to Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi  Nishit Kumar " aimed for Dalits, who traditionally favoured the LJP, and Muslims, who traditionally voted for the RJD. Kumar announced various welfare schemes that benefited all lower-caste Dalits referred to as "Mahadalits", only leaving out the Dusadhs, the caste to which Ram Vilas Paswan himself belongs. Similarly, he announced several schemes to benefit lower castes amongst Muslims, referred to as "pasmanda Muslims". While these policies benefited those for whom they were meant, they also helped Nitish Kumar effectively split the Dalits and Muslims and reap electoral gains for himself."  Another important factor was the higher castes , favoured neither by Lalu Yadav alliance nor Nitish Kumar's JD(U) went over to BJP, which did unexpectedly well, even beyond its own expectations . Thus caste still remains the main arbiter in elections.

It can be easily seen that with many parties in fray and the first past the post system ,the ruling coalition with 39.1% votes won 206 seats while the main opposition alliance of RJP-LJP won only 25 seats with 25.6 % of votes .Quite clearly something is wrong with the system and it can hardly be considered representing  the will of the electorate  .

All around the world electoral systems are designed to make them as representative of peoples will as possible .Not that they are completely satisfactory , but the Indian system is one of the least representative and undemocratic ,but Indians continue to persist with this electoral law .

But then Hindus still swear by Vedas , which were not even divined in India ( there are no proofs of remains  of horses in India at the time Vedas sprouted out of divinity).Not written either and even much latter transmitted only orally and restricted to Brahmins and their families .It is a well known fact that transmission by memory can be and has been changed to suit certain objectives .The power obtained by secrecy remains the Hindu and Indian creed .It needed an Italian born leader to loosen the stranglehold of secrecy by enacting the Right To Information Act , with which the ruling classes are not happy at all since it unveils their illegal and evil deeds in black and white. There are efforts to curb or dilute the RTI act. Some RTI activists have been killed.

Now that a 3rd political party has emerged in Britain, they have announced possible changes in the electoral law .The voter will have first and second preference votes .One who gets one plus 50% of the votes cast will be elected as peoples representative .But not in India where we ,otherwise ,look to Britain and now to Washington for eternal guidance and inspiration , for almost everything .We will not change what we have copied from the British .There is almost no discussion to change the flawed electoral law , which is prima facie against the principle of democracy and peoples' representation in the Parliament  .Only one Harish Salve has mentioned it .The village yokels , the urban riffraff  and criminalized elements who now occupy the legislatures ,seem quite happy with shameful happenings, like fights and violence and the sale of votes at every change or likely change of the government. Democracy has been perverted.

Many people say that MP (member of parliament) stands for maha pindari (big time highway robbers–eliminated by the English colonialists) or maha pakhandi (big fraud). Many politicians would certainly fit this description. Some rightly say that elections only mean one set of the pindaris replacing another.

 

During the state-supported pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 against Muslims, the ruling BJP would not admit to its crimes. Instead, it brought up the issue of how under Congress rule in 1984, after the assassination (by her Sikh bodyguards ) of then premier Indira Gandhi, many thousands of Sikhs were killed and burnt alive, mostly led by Congress goons who remain unpunished, to justify the murders and killings in Gujarat. While some progress under the Supreme Court monitoring has been made , Hindu criminals in collusion with a polarized bureaucracy and the police have been let off. As a result, many Muslims in India have started joining subversive organizations. The chickens will come home to roost.

The same attitude prevails when the BJP and its allies are caught with their hand in the till. They start accusing the Congress and other parties of corruption in the past, as if to justify their own corruption now. And it continues unabated. The people of India continue to suffer as they have over centuries. The political class and their supporting "industry" have become a burden on the poor masses. Indian democracy has been reduced to ritual festivals of meaningless polls and ministry formations, both occasions for free-for-all money exhorting. With many jaded film stars invited and  joining politics and elected with some even getting into the cabinet, the tamasha (play acting ) is now complete. India has verily entered the Nautanki Yug .

 

Regardless of whoever is in power, though, the wheel of unending suffering of the Indian masses will continue. So apart from defeating the current "rascals" in power, what purpose is served? The political class has totally destroyed the instruments of governance. And no country or corporate organization can last without good bureaucracy or administration. The Ottoman Empire, based on the merit system for recruitment and promotion, lasted for 600 years. When distortions entered the system, the empire rapidly declined and collapsed. The Roman Empire also lasted long because it, too, was initially based on merit. It was possible for a citizen from anywhere to become an emperor. US is also collapsing because of the greed and corruption of its ruling financial , military-industry and other corporate interests .


In the Indian system, under the spreading pernicious system of reservations, a variation of the Brahaminical caste system, the Indian political class has institutionalized mediocrity and decay. The loyalty of the bureaucracy and other levers of power is to individuals, families, caste dynasties, and not to the state. In this situation, dynastic families and mafia continue to misrule.

Apart from the judiciary, the media was to keep a watch on political parties and the bureaucracy. There may be a free-for-all in the Indian media, but they have largely lost their mission and professional integrity. Many of them are compromised by study grants and well-paid visits to the West for seminars and short courses. Many media barons have an unholy relationship with politicians, not for principles, but for pelf and power .Many have become politicians to promote their interests. They feed on each other. Verily an unholy nexus again.

Ombudsman or Lokpal Bill under consideration since 1966!

 

It is a matter of national shame that successive regimes during the past 30 years have refused to pass a bill to appoint an ombudsman, who would be empowered to look into corruption and other charges against ministers , members of parliament and other politicians. In the wake of current trenchant criticism and widespread disgust with overwhelming corruption by the ruling elite, with one scam following after  another , the Central government has dusted up the 30 year old modified acceptable-to-all draft of the Ombudsman or Lokpal Bill. But there it rests .

 

In 1966, the Administrative Reforms Commission had recommended the enactment of a law for setting up a Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in every state. But while 17 states have already set up Lokayuktas — Orissa was the first state to do so — successive central governments have been unable to do much .The question whether the PM and his Cabinet colleagues should be brought within the purview of the Lokpal were the major roadblocks. It has hardly made much difference in states with Lokayuktas , because pliable retired judges are made Lokayuktas .

 

Quite clearly, politicians are not interested in eradicating corruption among themselves. Many corruption trials have been going on for decades, with the courts functioning at a snail's pace where politicians are involved. The scams are invariably used before elections to throw mud at an opponent.

The body of the fish rots only when its head gets infected. Unless cabinet ministers, members of parliament and other politicians are brought under the ambit of the law and the guilty punished, their ill-gotten wealth confiscated, there is little hope of India taking its place in the comity of democratic and fully-developed nations dispensing justice to all speedily.

There is something rotten in the (Judicial) State of Denmark .

At a seminar in Chandigarh two years ago on the 'Responsibility of Judicial System towards the Society', Supreme Court judge G S Singhvi said that the judicial system had become a business in the eyes of the people. He said that due to the harassment suffered by the common man in his struggle for justice, 95 per cent of the people do not go to courts at all, suffering silently. "Those 5 per cent who do go, wait in queue for many years, empty their pockets to hire a lawyer. It's a nightmare for the common man --," adding that this was the reason people had started taking law in their hands. ( The judicial system is therefore openly and brazenly misused by the government ,the rich , the politically powerful and the criminals)

Corrupted Judiciary

The judicial redress will remain a far cry in India where eight of the last Chief Justices of India's Supreme Court were proclaimed to be corrupt according to a public declaration by senior Supreme Court advocate Shanti Bhusan ,a former federal law minister of India. He has challenged the Supreme Court to charge him for Contempt of the Court .There has been no takers so far .
 On August 17, 2010 the Supreme Court observed that the criminal justice system has almost crumbled since High Courts stay trials and then forget them . According to its information 10,541 criminal trials were stayed by Allahabad High Court. Of these, nine per cent had been pending for more than 20 years and 21 per cent for over a decade. This means stay of trial in 30 per cent of heinous offences continued for more than 10 years. Justice delayed is justice denied .
Recently the Supreme Court passed strictures against the Allahabad High Court about the integrity of of some of its justices , whose relatives practicing in the same court have become millionaires .The last Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan , now head of the Human Rights Commission has been involved in many unsavoury controversies during his tenure and now .The last is about accumulation of wealth beyond his means by his son-in-law .Politicians prefer to have tainted judges and civil servants in important post retirement posts and commissions of enquiries , since they can be easily manipulated .A classic example is of retired Police Chief of Haryana , who after being accused of molesting a minor girl and abetting in her suicide , decades ago ,did well for himself and perhaps did all right by his political patrons.

India resembles  the 11th century era in its history at the time of the invasions from the northwest, or during the last centuries of Moghul rule, when every job was for sale .Groups of Marathas, Jats, Rohillas, Sikhs and invaders roamed around the country looting and inflicting misery on the suffering masses of Hindustan. Now these gangs have formed political parties and loot and oppress common people. It is said that to become a police constable a bribe of Rupees 3 to 5 lakhs has to be paid .There are reports that the job of Mumbai's Commissioner of Police is auctioned among the senior policemen .

Incredible Scams-a-day India  

'BJP and Congress are one party'

While in 2008, India was at the 85th position, it was ranked at 84 in 2009. Even countries like Rwanda (66), Ghana(62), Namibia (56) and Botswana (33) are ahead of India in terms of transparency( less corrupt than India)

According to media reports it was estimated in 2008-09 that Indians ( it will read like the who & who in India ) have laundered money amounting to 71, 00.000 crores illegally to Swiss Bank accounts . More than half of the poorest Indians live on Rs 20 per day.

Indian economic decision makers led by PM Manmohan Singh and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia , both imbued with the theories and practices of Washington Consensus outfits like the IMF and the World Bank , created to safeguard US interests ,are more or less following US policies , except perhaps with some modifications like not letting normal banks in India to function as investment banks and invent and create hundreds of trillions of crazy financial instruments , benefitting only the US banksters . US economic policies brought down the prestigious institutions like Lehman Brothers and Meryl Lynch among others in 2008 and will certainly lead to US economic denouement sooner than later. 

Sucheta Dalal , a fiercely independent investigator of scams , writing in her blog a piece titled  "Corruption ;The Mutant Superbug ;" says that a liberal trade wind laid rules, set benchmarks for today's systemic looting." Two decades after economic liberalisation, we are the world's second-fastest growing economy. Decades of scarcity of everything, from telephone and gas connections to foreign exchange, are gone. Isn't it ironic then that on the 20th anniversary of the end of licence raj, what has grabbed the nation's interest is the systematic, large-scale plunder of national resources through ever-larger scams? Each scam was improved on by the following one in fine larceny. Our netas and businessmen, with the intermediation of clever lobbyists and venal babus, dreamt up new ways to skim the cream off every deal, contract, licence, statutory clearance or mining site while at the same time evading and suppressing any inquiry or media attention. Ramalinga Raju even ruined Satyam by siphoning off money to fund the ambitious Maytas Infrastructure and allegedly to bribe politicians.

"In the past decade, corruption in infrastructure contracts and land deals has raged unchecked because those in power began to share the loot with anyone who was likely to object. Throwing crumbs at opposition politicians to buy their silence and rewarding babus through allotment of undeserved flats became a regular feature. "A flat for a signature" seems to have been the policy in the Adarsh Housing Society scandal, where almost every bureaucrat whose concurrence or clearance was crucial (for denotification and conversion of user status) has been allocated super-expensive real estate in Mumbai."

An honest IAS officer of a north India state , where he reached the highest office of the chief secretary , with whom I spent the year of 1976 at the National Defense College told me in 1984 ."Earlier ie in 1960s and 1970s , the corrupt politicians had some sense of shame and decency  and would go out of the room to strike their corrupt deals with fixers and traders .But now they are so brash and arrogant that we have to leave the room out of shame at their doings ."


G-2 Spectrum Scam ,CWG and some other recent major scams

G-2 Scam , which has been incubating since the UPA first came into power in 2004, ( and also involved the previous regime of BJP led equally corrupt era of India Shining for the party and its supporters ) , is the biggest scam since it involves a loss of 170,000 crores (a crore =10 million) of rupees to hit headlines .It stopped the functioning of the Parliament .It is only the acme of the defiance by the corrupted ruling elite which is literally telling the public ," You Indian public , you are cattle and sheep .We have and we will keep on doing it. You can not do anything to us " Look at the statements of ex Minster A Raja , allegedly responsible for the Spectrum Scam and his party's attitude , Kalmadi's defiance in CWG scam  or statement of denials by an array of Maharashtra's top  political leaders and top and senior military officers deeply implicated in the Adarsh Housing Scam inMumbai and  earlier by Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan .

Niira Radia-the Ultimate Lobbyst for all Seasons.

Radia Tapes Unveil the cancerous Nexus of politicians , bureaucrats , Fixers and Corporate houses

 

"Indian politicians have looted the country much more after Independence than the British rulers did during their 200-year rule," Yoga guru Baba Ramdev

 

(Before the arrival of the British East India Company in the 18th century, the sub-continent's share in world manufacturing was 24.5 percent in 1750 But by the time the British had finished with India, the sub-continent's share had fallen to 1.7 percent (in 1900) and that of the British increased from 1.9 percent (in 1750) to 22.9 percent (in 1880) - Rise and fall of Big Powers by Professor Paul Kennedy.)


Niira Radia , the lobbyist ,born in Kenya of Punjab parents after many years in UK came to India in 1994 and set up base in Delhi."She became a powerful politician's dear friend, disciple of a powerful religious guru and, most triumphantly, a publicist for India's two biggest tycoons. --Radia invested in the right people and made the extra effort when needed,'' says India Today in its January 3, 2011 issue,

Below are some of the transcripts from Outlook magazine of her intercepted conversations with the rich, the mighty and the influential .The intercepts show the corporate lobbyist deftly weaving her way through power's corridors, and discussing the intricacies of realpolitik with the kind of candour rarely seen in the public discourse.

  • From the controversial JDU Rajya Sabha member N.K. Singh, Radia gets a minister-by-minister primer on the pluses and minuses on the 'Shivji ki baaraat' (a reference, as he explains, to a kind of Noah's Ark with many creatures, from scorpions and serpents to elephants and tame deer) that is the UPA-2 team.

    "Spectacular jump for Anand Sharma [commerce], spectacular decline for Kamal Nath [highways]," says Singh sagely, adding that Praful Patel would be "unhappy" at not being elevated as full civil aviation minister.

    "But he [Patel] has destroyed the sector," pipes in Radia. "He's worked as a minister for Naresh Goyal [Jet Airways] and now Vijay Mallya [Kingfisher]. He cannot brush off this charge.
     
  • "I think that perhaps Mukesh [Ambani] has swung it for him," says  Singh in a back-to-back conversation with Radia, on Murli Deora landing the plum petroleum portfolio for a second successive term in UPA-2.
  • In a different conversation, her aide, Manoj Warrier, too fills her in on a chat with P.M.S. Prasad of Reliance Industries who told him that the news about the Ambani brothers arriving at an out-of-court settlement in the gas dispute had been leaked by Deora to "deflect attention" from the real matter, the dividing up of resources including gas.
     
  • In a conversation with an unidentified person, Radia pushes the case of an industries secretary in the West Bengal government, an IAS officer of the 1977 batch, who is applying for transfer to the centre.

    "A very good guy," Radia says and that she has talked to the minister about it. "He says we can talk about it." She then fixes up a meeting with the unknown person.
  • To Atal Bihari Vajpayee's foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya, she complains that Unitech [the real estate firm which bought 2G spectrum under A. Raja's regime for a song] is avoiding her, even bouncing Tata cheques.

    When Bhattacharya mentions that the Unitech bosses probably think that the new commerce minister Anand Sharma is "proprietary", Radia adds her own input.

    "Haan, he [the Unitech boss] told me that abhi to Anand Sharma aa gaye hain. Dekhiye kitna confidence hai Sonia Gandhi un mein. (See how much confidence the Congress president has in Anand Sharma)."

Other Recent Scams

In early 1990s there was Harshad Mehta , an Indian stockbroker, known as the 'Big Bull' .He triggered a rise in the Bombay Stock Exchange in the year 1992 by trading in shares at a premium across many segments. Taking advantages of the loopholes in the banking system, Harshad and his associates triggered a securities scam diverting funds to the tune of Rs 4000 crore (Rs 40 billion) from the banks to stockbrokers between April 1991 to May 1992. He died of a massive heart attack in 2001, while the legal issues were still being litigated. He was very popular and an icon for  the Indian public .Everyone wanted to become rich overnight like him . 

Then there was Abdul Karim Telgi , a convicted-counterfeiter. He earned money to the tune of several billion dollars by printing counterfeit stamp paper. His 300 agents sold the fakes to bulk purchasers, including banks, FIs, insurance companies, and share-broking firms. His monthly profits were estimated in the neighbourhood of Rs 202 crore (slightly more than US $40 million). The size of the scam was estimated to be more than 43,000 Crore Rupees. Such scams can not be operated without the full support of the politicians. Under the influence of the truth serum, Telgi is said to have blurted out the names of some prominent Indian politicians which he was coerced to recant. He has recently been sentenced but the political heavy weights behind this scam remain free.

Then there is the perennial Bihar Fodder Scam , with an alleged embezzlement of about Rs 950 crores  (US$ 206.15 million) from the government treasury .This theft involved many Bihar state government officers , business people and even chief and other ministers belonging to various political parties led by Lalu Yadav , Dr. Jagannath Mishra and others  .It involved fabrication of "vast herds of fictitious livestock" for which fodder, medicines and other equipment was supposedly procured. Although the scandal broke in 1996, the theft was spread over two decades. It revealed, and is an example of the mafia rule having penetrated several state-run economic sectors in the country.  

It is said that the government of India is really not interested in extraditing the notorious Mumbai gangster Dawood Ibrahim, resident in Karachi, Pakistan and now a collaborator with Pakistan aiding ISI in various terrorist activities in India in general and Mumbai in particular. His interrogation, if extradited would indicate his linkages with many prominent politicians and rich persons in Delhi , Mumbai and elsewhere .

Another of the biggest recent corporate scam in India involves one of the most respected (!) businessmen. Infotech Satyam founder B. Ramalinga Raju who resigned as its chairman after admitting cooking up the account books. He showed "fictitious assets with real ones" through Maytas acquisition which failed, and he decided to confess to the crime. It involves a fraud of about Rs 8,000 crore (Rs 80 billion). The government stepped in and with help of another private sector company set the affairs right ie sweeping the misdeeds under the carpet .But suspicions remain ! Who knows what is hidden in various accounts of other private companies all over India.

In 1996 CBI seized Rs. 3.6 crores in cash concealed in bags and suitcases from the official residence of Ex-union minister Sukhram. In February 25, 2009,Sukhram was sentenced to three years' imprisonment and told to pay a fine of Rs two lakh. Court also ordered forfeiture of his disproportionate assets worth Rs 4.25 crore. He appealed to the Higher Court and is free and enjoying life .There are many such cases of ministers and Chief ministers who after conviction have got stay orders from higher courts and will enjoy their illgotten wealth till they pass away .

 

And then there is the other perennial Bofors case , which involved bribes of only Rs. 40 crores (440 million) .It has been used by the opposition against the Congress party at every election time .Opposition parties did little to solve it when in power from 1998 to 2004. Late PM VP Singh , a former Congress finance minister who won elections in 1989 saying that he knew the account no of the Bofors money did little when in power .Gossip has circulated that one of l VP Singh's friends had received the money .

 

Call for Lobbyists in India 

 

 " Numerous times this year, members of Congress have held fundraisers and collected big checks while they are taking critical steps to write new laws, despite warnings that such actions could create ethics problems. The campaign donations often came from contributors with major stakes riding on the lawmakers' actions. "Washington Post"

 

Unless elections are state funded and institutions given constitutional independence , money power and sleaze would control the politics and economic life of the country and bring ruin as it has to USA , of which Indian elite are great admirers .

 

Info and intellect challenged empty heads dominate TV channels , media and other discourse about the US led Western model .To eliminate the kind of increasing stranglehold of corporate power over  Indian policy making , some have suggested making lobbies legal as in USA , without studying the evil influence of lobbies dispensing billions of US dollars and promoting military industry , energy , communication and other corporate monopolies in USA and bringing down the decline of USA.

 

At least in US the rule of law still exists and it is implemented .Criminals and guilty persons how ever high , rich or powerful they may be are punished , something which has not happened in India and is unlikely to happen any time too soon .

 

Conclusion;

 

India has reverted back to decadent Moghul empire end era after the eroding of the Teflon put on by two centuries of British rule of law , which never penetrated below the district level.

 

As in Hindustan's tragic history , the rulers who have usurped power cannot even provide protection to the citizens of the country with terrorists from Pakistan and elsewhere and from inside , almost having a free run .The last was ,in the glare of the world media ,the brutal rape of India's commercial and cultural capital Mumbai on 26 November, 2008 for three days by Pak trained terror group with possible knowledge if not FBI complicity. India is still discussing the details of the rape with Pakistan and US and has become a laughing stock of the world .Yes, after every such attack the political class increases its own security , to hell with the subjects .It has yet to devise a deterrent against such attacks .

 

The security system had failed to spy and counter 2611 rape as other earlier disasters .If another 2611 takes place it will find India equally unprepared . Perhaps US is making sure it does not recur.

 

Even the Indian armed forces have been infected with the malaise of corruption and other ills .The involvement of many top generals of the Indian defense services in the Adarsh Housing Scheme for Kargil martyrs and other scams are only some of the tips of the iceberg.

 

The country has been taken over for the benefits of a small minority of those who have usurped power and continue to do so with a defunct electoral system .The judicial system has been distorted to favour the powerful and the rich .For all practical purposes there is little rule of law .India remains a collection of identities based on caste ,religion, language , regional and other divisive tendencies.

India is becoming a land of banana plantations .

 

National needs and policies are drowned in local politics, emotional or outdated ideological illusions, playing to the galleries or simple ignorance .Former Indian Ambassador KS Bajpai gives some examples ,"Tamil Nadu's parties competed to embarrass Delhi's handling of Sri Lanka, states around Bangladesh connive at illegal immigration, UP has no thought for its responsibilities vis-à-vis Nepal. With visions so narrow, who cares about the security of the Persian Gulf or the stability of Central Asia? Or the question of our permanent UNSC membership." Indians will remain frogs in a well or like the scabs in an opened tin ,pulling each other down.

 

 India is unlikely to become a modern nation with rule of law which defines a nation, any time soon .It is becoming worse with an uncertain future .

 

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author http://tarafits.blogspot.com/

 


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas and a very healthy, happy and prosperous 2011


Wishing you and your family Merry Christmas and a very healthy, happy and prosperous 2011

 

Many of you might have read my piece on Santa Claus and evolution of Christmas celebrations around the world .I was able to visit many places associated with Santa Claus , who was born in Turkey , Mary supposedly buried in Turkey, and Jesus Christ ,specially Saint Paul of Tarsus , who really spread Christianity to the Asia Minor , as Turkey was then known and Europe.

Since last two years I have also added how New Year is celebrated around the world . You may wish to share this info with friends and tell me more about it .

 

Best wishes and warm regards Gajendra 22 December, 2010.Mayur Vihar, Delhi

 

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/DL25Ag02.html

"If one drives from the Turkish city of Fethiye to Antalya, littered with hotels and resorts for millions of tourists who throng its Mediterranean coast, which was known as Lycia in ancient times, after passing innumerable ancient ruins, one reaches the town of Demre, known as Myra in olden days.

In the center of the town one will come across the Church of St Nicholas, the patron saint of children, sailors and the poor and one of the most popular saints in Christianity now associated with the celebration of Christmas. Many legends have been woven around Nicholas, who was the bishop of this church in the 4th century AD and where he died in 342. He was born in about 280 AD in the town of Patara, which the traveler would have passed about 100 kilometers earlier."

Some of you might have read this piece before , so I have added some info about the origins of  the New Year celebrations, now almost universal and the greetings in local languages around the world . Basically , the celebrations began from crop harvesting season by our ancestors and the celebration of the life gifted by mother earth and the Sun , a dominant god in almost all ancient religions and cultures ,and both worshipped in various forms including the fertility cult by all early agricultural societies .

 

New Year Celebrations  

In countries using the Gregorian calendar , the New Year is usually celebrated on January 1. Although by tradition, the Roman calendar began from the first day of March but it was in January (the eleventh month) that the Consuls of ancient Rome assumed the government. Julius Caesar, in 47 BC, created the Julian calendar  It was modified in 44 BC at the time of Mark Antony, then by the emperor Augustus Caesar in 8BC .And finally by Pope Gregory XIII in 1585 , the current calendar which begins on January 1.

Subsequently, it acquired  a religious significance during the Middle Ages and in later centuries. Following the domination of the West and the dissemination of its system to the rest of the world during the twentieth century, January 1 celebrations have become almost universal, even in countries with their own hoary ancient New Year traditions and celebrations (e.g., China , India , Iran etc).

 

Jamshedi Navroz: Celebration of Life - Jamshedi Navroz  

One of the oldest tradition of new year are those of Iran's Zoroastrians or Parsis in India .Their prophet Zarathushtra accorded as much sanctity to nature as to human existence. The Sun became the celestial emblem of the Fire which was kept burning within the homes and fire-temples on earth as an eternal tribute to the spirit of the Creator, Ahura Mazda. 

A benediction to the spirit of the Sun proclaims: "When the Sun rises, the land created by Ahura Mazda becomes purified. If the Sun were not to rise, evil forces would devastate all that exists.'' During winter the power of the Sun decreases, the nights are long and cold, nature slumbers.

 

Then on March 21, the Sun enters the sign of Aries and this day is known as the Spring or Vernal Equinox. From this day on the power of the Sun waxes, the days get longer and nature rejoices. King Jamshed of the Peshdadian dynasty in ancient Iran introduced the Sun-calendar with the day of the Vernal Equinox as the first day of the year - Naoroz (new day).

 

Jamshedi Navroz is celebrated not only by the Zoroastrians, but also by Muslims in Iran, Afghanistan, Kurdistan and some parts of the former Soviet Union. Entire families go to the countryside to be close to nature, to celebrate the coming of spring. Iranians prepare a table with seven articles beginning with the letter 'S': Sib (apple), sabzi (vegetable), sirkey (vinegar), soomac (powder), sir (garlic), sikke (coin), senjed (olive).

 

Both Zoroastrians and Aryans, being of the same stock ie Indo- Iranians, worshipped fire. Parsees in India still do so . Hindus also worship Agni (fire); during Hawans for marriages and other religious and social functions. Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan , north of Iran, told me that in ancient times his country was known as Aagban, Aagbaan etc. which could perhaps mean forest of fire or an arrow of fire. Near Azerbaijan's capital Baku is Atishgah , a temple with a burning fire from natural gas seeping out from earth's crevices .It was believed to have many miraculous powers which brought happiness and wellbeing to visitors and devotees .Located on the silk route, a number of Indian traders- Parsees, Punjabis, Gujaratis and others visited it and built rooms for their stay and for their horses .

In south east Turkey , where the Kurds, an Iranian related people are in majority but their language and culture are suppressed, celebrate Nawroz with great fanfare as a mark of defiance  against the unitary Turkish state , whose secular elite celebrates the New Year with European style balls and feasts .

 

India in its diversity .

A culturally rich and diverse country ,India ,where different regions follow different traditions and cultures the New Year celebrations also manifold. Like other ancient civilizations ,the New Year celebrations are associated with harvesting of crops. Almost every Indian state has its own history and traditions behind the celebrations .So the people celebrate New Year as per their regional calendar with vibrant colors with their own distinctive features .It also provides many lazy Indians in bureaucracy to take another day off from work.

New Year dates of many religions coincide with each other. Baisakhi falls on April 13 or 14 every year and so does Bihu in Assam, Nabo Barsho in Bengal, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu and Pooram Vishu in Kerala. In an agriculturally rich country New Year in different regions of  India are usually celebrated to mark the time for harvesting of crops. In some places, the religious minded people celebrate it to honor Lord Brahma , creator of the universe . Whatever be the reason, the day begins with pooja at homes and temples followed by specific customs and rituals. At the time of New Year, every house is adorned with auspicious flowers, leaves and lights. People also present traditional New Year gifts to their dear ones and share rich meals with families and friends to mark the auspicious day.

In north India's agriculturally prominent and prosperous states of Punjab and Haryana , the festival of Lohri "The Bonfire Festival" is celebrated on 13th January every year. The festival marks the solar equinox when the Sun starts moving towards Uttarayan (North). People specially the farming community of Punjab celebrate it with great gusto, zeal and enthusiasm. Bonfires, songs and dance , til Jaggery and peanuts are an essence of Lohri celebrations. In north India , specially in Punjab which  prides itself on its food grain production , its most significant festival is Baisakhi (also called Vaisakhi) .This harvest festival is celebrated on the thirteenth day of April according to the solar calendar.

Pongal is a four-days-long harvest festival in Tamil Nadu, in south India. It falls generally on the 14th or the 15th of January and is the quintessential 'Tamil Festival' . It is a festival of thanksgiving to nature for celebrating the life cycles that give us grain. It takes its name from the Tamil word meaning "to boil" .It is held in the month of Thai (January-February) when rice and other cereals, sugar-cane, and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are harvested.

Tamilians say 'Thai pirandhaal vazhi pirakkum', and believe that knotty family problems will be solved with the advent of Thai. This is also traditionally a month of weddings. This is no surprise in a largely agricultural community - the riches gained from a good harvest form the economic basis for expensive family occasions like weddings.

This first day is celebrated as Bhogi festival in honor of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. Homage is paid to Lord Indra for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the land. Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the spring and the harvest. The significance of the bonfire, in which is burnt the agricultural wastes and firewood is to keep warm during the last lap of winter.

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays .It is often called the Lunar New Year, especially by people in mainland China and Taiwan. The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first month (Chinese: 正月pinyin: zhēng yuè) in the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th; this day is called Lantern Festival. Chinese New Year's Eve is known as Chúxī. It literally means "Year-pass Eve". The Lunisolar Chinese calendar determines New Year dates. The calendar is also used in countries that have adopted or have been influenced by Han culture (notably the Koreans, Japanese and Vietnamese) and may have a common ancestry with the similar New Years festivals outside East Asia .

Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year between January 21 and February 20. In the Chinese calendar , winter solstice must happen in the 11th month, so the Chinese New Year usually falls in the second new moon after the winter solstice (rarely in the third ) In traditional Chinese Culture, lichun is a solar term marking the start of spring, which occurs about February 4.

According to legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with a fight against a mythical monster called the Nien (Chinese: pinyin: nián), who would appear on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year believing that a food satisfied Nien would spare them .  Once, people saw that the Nien was scared away by a little child wearing red. So, when the New Year is about to commence the villagers hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. They also use firecrackers to frighten away the Nien. The Nien was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk and became the latter's mount.

The New Year Greetings around the world

 

Language

Happy New Year

Afghani

Saale Nao Mubbarak

Afrikaans

Gelukkige nuwe jaar

Albanian

Gezuar Vitin e Ri

Arabic

Antum salimoun

Armenian

Snorhavor Nor Tari

Assyrian

Sheta Brikhta

Azeri

Yeni Iliniz Mubarek!

Bengali

Shuvo Nabo Barsho

Cambodian

Soursdey Chhnam Tmei

Catalan

FELIÇ ANY NOU

Chinese

Chu Shen Tan / Xin Nian Kuai Le

Corsican Language

Pace e Salute

Croatian

Sretna Nova godina!

Cymraeg (Welsh)

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Czechoslovakia

Scastny Novy Rok

Danish

Godt Nytår

Dhivehi

Ufaaveri Aa Aharakah Edhen

Dutch

GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR!

Eskimo

Kiortame pivdluaritlo

Esperanto

Felican Novan Jaron

Estonians

Head uut aastat!

Ethiopian

MELKAM ADDIS AMET YIHUNELIWO!

Finnish

Onnellista Uutta Vuotta

French

Bonne Annee

Gaelic

Bliadhna mhath ur

German

Prosit Neujahr

Greek

Kenourios Chronos

Gujarati

Nutan Varshbhinandan

Hawaiian

Hauoli Makahiki Hou

Hebrew

L'Shannah Tovah

Hindi

Nav varsh ka shubkamnayein

Hong Kong (Cantonese)

Sun Leen Fai Lok

Hungarian

Boldog Ooy Ayvet

Indonesian

Selamat Tahun Baru

Iranian

Saleh now mobarak

Iraqi

Sanah Jadidah

Irish

Bliain nua fe mhaise dhuit

Italian

Felice anno nuovo

Japanese

Akimashite Omedetto Gozaimasu

Kabyle

Asegwas Amegaz

Kannada

Hosa Varushadha Shubhashayagalu

Kisii

SOMWAKA OMOYIA OMUYA

Khmer

Sua Sdei tfnam tmei

Korea

Saehae Bock Mani ba deu sei yo!

Kurdish

NEWROZ PIROZBE

Lithuanian

Laimingu Naujuju Metu

Laotian

Sabai dee pee mai

Macedonian

Srekjna Nova Godina

Malay

Selamat Tahun Baru

Marathi

Nveen Varshachy Shubhechcha

Malayalam

Puthuvatsara Aashamsakal

Maltese

Is-Sena t- Tajba

Nepal

Nawa Barsha ko Shuvakamana

Norwegian

Godt Nyttår

Papua New Guinea

Nupela yia i go long yu

Pashto

Nawai Kall Mo Mubarak Shah

Persian

Saleh now ra tabrik migouyam

Philippines

Manigong Bagong Taon

Polish

Szczesliwego Nowego Roku

Portuguese

Feliz Ano Novo

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ASIA TIMES online -25 December, 2002

 

 

St Nicholas: Turkey's gift to the world
In a journey down the byways of history, K Gajendra Singh travels to Demre, on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, where he finds the Church of St Nicholas, once the domain of Bishop Nicholas, now hailed as the patron saint of children and the poor and everywhere associated with the celebration of Christmas. (Dec 24, '02)-Editor

                                                                     Written for Tara Amelia Singh-Breuer , Brussels

 

Turkey's gift to the world   By K Gajendra Singh

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/DL25Ag02.html


If one drives from the Turkish city of Fethiye to Antalya, littered with hotels and resorts for millions of tourists who throng its Mediterranean coast, which was known as Lycia in ancient times, after passing innumerable ancient ruins, one reaches the town of Demre, known as Myra in olden days.

In the center of the town one will come across the Church of St Nicholas, the patron saint of children, sailors and the poor and one of the most popular saints in Christianity now associated with the celebration of Christmas. Many legends have been woven around Nicholas, who was the bishop of this church in the 4th century AD and where he died in 342. He was born in about 280 AD in the town of Patara, which the traveler would have passed about 100 kilometers earlier.

 

As a young man Nicholas traveled to Palestine and Egypt and became the bishop at Myra on his return. He was imprisoned during the persecution of Christians by Roman Emperor Diocletian. The persecution ended when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion and built his capital at Constantinople in 324 AD on the Straits of Bosporus, separating Asia and Europe. When conquered in 1453 by Sultan Fethi Mehmet, Constantinople became the new Ottoman capital, now known as Istanbul.

After his release from prison, St Nicholas attended the first Christian Council in 325 at Nicea. There is definite historical evidence of this in the records of the council. Nicea, now known as Iznik, famous for its Ottoman tiles, is not far from Istanbul on the Asian side of the city that straddles two continents.

The stories of miracles and benevolence associated with St Nicholas and the legends woven around him have identified him as Santa Claus and Father Christmas. The earliest reference to him occurs in a Greek text of the 6th century, according to which three officers condemned to death by Constantine were saved when St Nicholas appeared to the emperor in a dream. In another legend, a merchant fallen on bad times was very much worried about dowry for his three daughters who could not be otherwise married and might have ended up as prostitutes. One evening, while passing by, St Nicholas overheard the unhappy merchant's conversation of with his wife. So the next day, secretly entering by the window, he lobbed three bags of gold coins in the house of the merchant, thus enabling his daughters to marry and live happily ever afterwards.

That story lies behind the three gold balls used as a sign by pawnbrokers. Another legend consists of three boys who had been cut up by mistake by a butcher. St Nicholas restored them to life. There are many other such stories.

A biography of St Nicholas written by a 6th century abbot of a nearby church, also named Nicholas, spread his fame throughout the Christian world, starting with Germany and other countries of reformed Christianity and later to France. St Nicholas was chosen the patron saint of Russia, Greece and various charities and was a popular name for kings and common men alike. Thousands of churches are dedicated to him, the first built in the 6th century AD at Constantinople by Emperor Justinian. His miracles became the subject for medieval artists and liturgical plays.

But Santa Claus' tomb in Myra is of a later date. By the 6th century his shrine was quite well known. Being specially benevolent to sailors and merchants, who had adopted him, his remains were spirited away to Bari in Italy in 1087 by a group of merchants or sailors to save it from desecration by Muslims. His relics are enshrined in the 11th century Basilica of St Nicholas. Its removal on May 9 to Bari is celebrated with fanfare, making it a holy and crowded place of pilgrimage for Christians.

The word Christmas comes from old English cristes maesse, or "Christ's Mass". For Christians, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth, although the exact date of birth is not known. However, in 336 AD, Christian leaders set the date to December 25 in an attempt to counter a popular pagan holiday in Rome that celebrated the winter solstice. Originally, Christmas involved a simple mass, but slowly it has subsumed or replaced a number of other holidays in many countries, and a large number of other religious and cultural traditions have been absorbed into the celebrations.

Christmas comes three times each year to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. While the Western Church and the Russian Orthodox Church both celebrate Christmas on December 25, the Russian Church still uses the old Julian calendar which places their (December 25) celebration on January 7, according to our calendar. The Armenian Church celebrates on January 6 by the Julian calendar, which becomes January 19 to us. To add to the confusion, the January 6 celebration of Epiphany overlaps into the Russian Christmas. In addition, the diversity in climate has shaped Christmas festivities all over the world.

Ethnic groups have brought their own traditions, specially in an immigrant society like the United States. Even food varies from country to country. Americans concentrate on Turkey (in Turkey, the bird is called Hindi - anything exotic has to be from India), while dinner on Christmas eve in Germany consists of dishes such as suckling pig, white sausage, macaroni salad and many regional dishes.

The English celebrate Christmas season with hearty feasting and merrymaking with wild abandon. They have been doing so perhaps since King Arthur, as the legend goes, made "merrie" in 521 AD at York surrounded by "minstrels, gleemen, harpers, pipe-players, jugglers and dancers". It appears that celebrations went underground during puritan Cromwellian rule as did sex during another puritan Victorian era.

Apart from Le Pere Joel (Father Christmas), the French have Le Pere Fouettard (Father Spanker) to "reward" bad children with spanking. In the Netherlands, children are told that Santa Claus, known as Sinterklaas, arrives from Spain on a steamer on his feast day, December 6. The night before, children fill their shoes with hay and sugar for his horse. In the morning they find them filled with gifts such as nuts and candy. Sometimes Sinterklaas appears in person in the children's homes, along with his assistant, Black Pete.

The people of Twente, Denenkamp and Ootmarsum in eastern Holland announce the coming of the Christ child by blowing special horns, handcrafted from birch saplings three or four feet in length, which when blown over wells produce a deep-toned sound similar to a foghorn. This tradition goes back to around 2,500 BC when horn blowing was believed to chase evil spirits away. Now horn blowing is relayed from farm to farm to announce the arrival of the Christmas season.

In what is now the US, Christmas was perhaps first celebrated at Tallahassee, Florida, in 1539 in Spanish style by Hernando de Soto and his army. Legends of Santa Claus and the celebration of Christmas as the feast day were taken to New York by Dutch immigrants. In the beginning the Puritans in New England had even suppressed it by law (identifying it with pagan rites and Papist practices), arguing that the New Testament gave no date for Christ's birth.

But it then blossomed into a carnival and became even rowdy and disruptive, almost like "Holi" - the north Indian festival of colors. It was neither a family nor a commercial holiday at the beginning of the 19th century, but become so by its end. The transformation of Santa Claus around the 1820s, into a night visitor bringing gifts for children and the poor, made it pro-plebian and Christmas became an enjoyable festival. But Santa Claus' magical tricks, benevolence and love for children have made Christmas a family festival with gifts for children, perhaps based on Nordic tales of rewarding good children and the exchange of gifts among family members and friends. That is why people from all over the world from other religions also join in.

While New York has its tree, in California thousands flock to Hollywood for the annual Parade of Stars, while others converge on Balboa Park in San Diego for Christmas concerts on the world's largest outdoor pipe organ. Festivities range from a picnic on the beach at Waikiki or Key West to candles in a window during the twilight of a cold day in Alaska. Nowadays consumerism has overtaken simple celebrations, in the US the most, where traders, economists and government look at counter sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas for its likely impact on the US economy. As George Bernard Shaw commented, "Christmas is forced upon a reluctant and disgusted nation by the shopkeepers and the press; on its own merits it would wither and shrivel in the fiery breath of universal hatred."

To most Americans, St Nicholas is just another name for Santa Claus - plump and rosy-cheeked - whereas for most of Europeans and Asians he is a thin figure dressed in bishop's robes, also so it is shown in Demre town's square in Turkey. As Christmas in Europe and North America falls in mid-winter, the tradition of a white snow Christmas, white bearded Santa Claus and other myths, have emerged. The popular song "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" for the movie "Holiday Inn" (1942) sung by Bing Crosby, perhaps further confirmed this perception.

Myra, though, is not cold. Nor is Patara, his birth place five kilometers from one of the longest sandy beaches in Turkey. When I went there in August 1994, it was impossible to walk on the hot sand, although many north European tourists looking like grilled lobsters were enjoying themselves, some bicycling around in steaming temperatures. But it was quite pleasant in March. Patara is also full of Roman and Byzantine ruins, including a theater, the magnificent Hadrian's Gate and a Christian Basilica.

Myra was an important town in the region. St Paul and St Luke had visited it a few times while going to Ephesus. It was the capital of the Byzantine Lycia until it fell to Caliph Harun al Rashid in 808. Apart from St Nicholas' Church, Myra attracts tourists for its shrines and rock-cut sepulchers on a hill, looking like carved wooden houses. At the foot of the hill is a large Roman theater.

Demre town is located in a swampy flat area full of mosquitoes and its hothouse cultivation of vegetables and fruit with acres of plastic sheets make for an ugly sight. The harbor of Demre, now known as Chayazi, the ancient Andriace on the river Xanthos, has boats to take one to the beaches of Kekova island or Kas, both popular spots with rich yacht owners from Europe and the US. Turkey is now seriously in the business of exploiting its ancient historical and religious sites to attract tourists. It holds a festival every year on December 6 to celebrate St Nicholas Day at Demre, with great fanfare, inviting tourists, clergymen, journalists and others.

Turkey, known as Asia Minor in ancient times, was the cradle of early Christianity. In a grotto near Antakya (Antioch), bordering Syria, St Peter held the first mass. Followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians here for the first time. Christianity spread from here and first blossomed in the east at Edessa, now known as Urfa, from where 500 people went to Malabar Coast in the 4th century AD (and other groups later) to form early distinct Syrian Christian communities.

Nearby in Tur Abdin and Midyat, with old Syrian Christian monasteries and churches, Suryani Christians still speak Syriac, a language akin to what Jesus Christ spoke. St Paul was a native of Tarsus in Cilicia. Seven churches located in Turkey are mentioned in the Revelation of John: Ephesus (nearby the Virgin Mary is reputedly buried), Smyrna, Pergamum, Thiatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Chalcedon is an Asian suburb of Istanbul, known as Kadikoy and not far from it is Nicomedea, now called Izmit, a major industrial center.

With more Greek ruins than Greece and more Roman monuments than Italy, Turkey, with its Mediterranean and Aegean coast resorts, attracts nearly 10 million to 12 million tourists a year and earns over US$8 billion in tourist dollars every year. Even Europeans are amazed to find that places where Greek and hence the earliest European political and religious thought evolved are in Turkey. The spiritual forefathers of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the very first Greek philosophers Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenus, were born and lived in Miletus around the 6th century BC, east of present day Ephesus and Izmir, then known as Smyrna, the birth place of Homer, of Odyssey and Iliad fame.

From Ionia along Turkey's western coast entered the word Yunani for the Greeks in the Eastern lexicon. The historian Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus, now known as Bodrum, a port. The geographer Strabo was born at Amasia, east of Turkey's capital Ankara. Troy, of Helen, Trojan horse and Achilles' heel fame, is located on the Asian side of the Dardanelles. Across at Gallipoli on the European side lie buried thousands of Indian soldiers, with their Australian, New Zealand and British comrades. They were killed (some say foolishly sacrificed) in fierce battles during World War I when the mighty British navy tried to take over the peninsula. Its defense made Kemal Ataturk, a colonel then, a hero among Turks.

It was at Zile, northeast of Ankara, that Julius Caesar proclaimed veni, vidi ,vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) after his unexpected quick victory over Pharnaces II, whose father Mithradates VI had given a tough fight to the Romans.The name Mithridates (gift of Mithra), a popular name in the region, comes from the Vedic and Avestan god Mithra.

The Greek Hellenic world came in contact with the sophisticated religions and philosophy of the East, including Mithraism, after the small town boy Alexander and his hordes cut a swathe of victories across the Achaemenian Empire. They also learnt about state protocol and the divinity of the emperor. Coming into contact with neo-Platonian and other ideas, Mithraism flowered between the 2nd and 4th centuries in the Roman world and became a very popular religion among the Roman aristocracy, military leaders and soldiers, traders and slaves with powerful patrons among Roman emperors, like Commodus, Septimium Severus, Caraculla and others. Diocletian built a temple for Mithra near Vienna on Danube as "the Protector of the Empire".

Along the Rhine, Danube, Euphrates and in Roman north Africa, where Roman legions used to camp, there are ruins of hundreds of underground Mithra temples, with the slaying of the Cosmic Bull symbolizing the creation of the universe and fertility. (Perhaps the Spanish sport of bullfighting originates from it). As the god of Light and Sun, contract, loyalty and justice, Mithraism was organized (but open only to men, being an Aryan patriarchal religion) in a graded hierarchy, with novices ascending up the highest seventh level - something like Buddhist /Hindu sanghas (orders).

Various astronomical symbols, still indecipherable, with their meanings transmitted orally from teacher to pupil in Aryan/Avestan tradition, still remain unknown. One can speculate that they were similar to levels in meditation for final unity with God. Celebrations for Mithra's birthday on December 25, the sun's solstice, was so popular in the East that Christmas had to be shifted to this day from January 6 to make it acceptable among the masses. Christianity also took over many of the rituals and symbols of Mithraism, like baptism, resurrection and prayers in honor of the sun.

The earliest written mention of Mithra, the guarantor of contract, was found on tablets not far from Ankara amid the ruins of Bogazkoy, the capital of the Indo-European Hittites. The Mithra gods (also Indra, Varuna and Natasya) were invoked as the god of oath in the peace treaty between the Hittites and the Indo-Aryan Mitannis, who ruled for three centuries in southeast Turkey and Syria (1,500 BC to 1,200 BC). The Bogazkoy archives also produced a horse-training manual. The technical terms used in horse training and chariotry, like aika wartanna, navartanna (one turn, nine turns) are like ek vartanam, nava vartanam, as in Vedic Sanskrit. Both the treaty and the training manual tablets are displayed from time to time at the Archeological Museum in Istanbul.

Mitannis also signed a peace treaty with the Pharaohs to counteract the Hittite threat from the northwest. This was cemented with Mitanni princesses being married to the Pharaohs. Princess Gilukhepa was married to Amun Hotep III. She went to her husband in style with 317 Mitannian maidens.

Later, the Mitanni king Tushratta (whose chariot wheels rolled the fastest - a la Ferrari nowadays) gave his daughter Tadukhepa to Amun Hotep IV, who also married Gilukhepa, youngest in his father's harem. It is generally believed that Gilukhepa was no other than the beautiful and famous Nefertiti. It is known that Nefertiti fully supported her husband's efforts to bring in monotheism. This upset the vested interests of priests and after their sudden disappearance, old gods and cults came back. It was from Egypt, where Moses was born and brought up, that he led out the Jews with the idea of one god Jehovah.

But for the 312 AD victory at the Milvian Bridge under the banner of the Cross, after which Constantine opted for Christianity, leading to the decline of Mithraism, it is conceivable that Mithraism might have spread and become a world religion. But like most religions, Christianity, which was itself persecuted, did the same to other religions and its own newer sects, with religion, alas, becoming another tool for control and exploitation by the powerful.

Then came Islam with jihads and to counter the Crusades. The concept of crusades and jihad is once again at the forefront, and if pursued could play havoc with earthlings. It's crucial that leaders of all countries forget their short-term interests and ponder what has gone wrong with the human race. They should strive for reconciliation and peaceful solutions to differences.

 

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal.

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