Indian History

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The Intolerance Debate : Are We More, Or Less Tolerant?

Published November 8, 2015 by vishalvkale

The intolerance debate has been raging for some time now; high time we tackled this bear by the horns, challenged it and defeated it. But, in order to do that, it is essential we understand the nature of the problem facing us.  It was as I was making this effort of trying to understand intolerance that a striking possibility occurred  : that we might actually be getting far more tolerant than we thought!


This first occurred to me when I noted how Dilip Kumar and other Muslim actors had to change their names in order to broaden their appeal. We have moved a long way since then; now not only do film stars not change their names, but can confidently go ahead without a care for their names. Modern India can now showcase famous names across trades and professions showing that professional discrimination has been steadily decreasing to what I hope is now near-zero.

This latest question occurred to me on reading some period literature of the late 1800s and the early 1900s;which showcase the status of our society as it was at ground level in those trying times. As compared to that period, in my opinion we have moved far, far ahead and have become far more accepting and tolerant. Sure, intolerance remains; but it is nowhere near what it was earlier. Sure, problems remain; but nothing quite so serious as compared to before.


Santaani resurgence is not a new phenomenon, and has always been present since the times of the early 1800s at least; neither is the division in our society along various lines from caste to politics, That is the price we are paying for colonialism; that is the price of our independence, I have no doubt that eventually we shall triumph; my confidence in my mother, my India is total in that regard, As is my confidence in at least my religion : Sanaatan Dharm, wrongly known as Hinduism.

We have two choices : focus on the negative message of intolerance, or further the positive message of tolerance. I choose to take the latter path : can we spot current trends towards tolerance? I can, More than several, and in the here and the now…

There is far more than meets the eye, in that this isnt just a political issue as much as it is a classic socio-political issue arising out of the entire sequence of events that can be traced back decades, if not more. The past events have given rise to a minority of Sanaatani followers in India who hanker for a more fundamental approach; a set of people who set store by Sanaatan Dharm as the central religion, and the pole of Indian polity as well as society

Note : I refer to Hinduism as Sanaatan Dharm, by its original name. There is no historical or religious basis for the term Hinduism; basis my more than 36 books reading of Indian History, almost all reviewed on my blog.

There is still a segment of people who regard Muslim rule as alien, who still quote the wars and the violence in the Mughal and Slave Dynasty periods, who insist that Muslim rule was far more damaging than the British rule, You can read blogs, articles on the mythical 1000-year slavery, or the other aspect online on any number of platforms, or on comments. Hopefully this is still a minor matter in India

What is happening isnt just a political affair; it is a socio-political affair. And unless we factor in all factors, any conclusions we reach will be erroneous. And the past has a tremendous bearing on the present; any number of current events can be found as proof. Please read the comments on various sites, and note the tenor of the comments, and how they hark back to the “golden” period of Sanaatani rule for vivid proof of this. We have no choice but to face down the events of the past, and prove the reality, separate the chaff from the substance, and lay bare the reality,


The problems we face today have their genesis in several factors :
* History
* Social Developments and Churning
* Politics
* Religion

But more of these in later articles; To cut things short for now, it isnt a matter of do-this-as-my-forefathers-were-done-this-to-them. It goes much deeper – into a hard-wired inferiority feeling in some Sanaatan Dharmis, wherein they regard the period 1300-1700 as a period when the Golden rule of Sanaatan Dharm fell by the wayside. The problem with this narrative in vogue is at many levels and layers; for starters – the assumption of Sanaatani political rule is itself debatable, given the non-political nature, by and large, of Sanaatan Dharm. Further, the interplay between political factors and the cooperation of local kings also goes ignored in this narrative

Second, the assumption that Sanaatan Dharm fell is itself, to me, a deep insult; the way I see it, we Sanaatanis did not fall; despite the heavy persecution that was periodically visited upon us for the past several centuries, While the Abrahaminic Religions totally eclipsed the earlier society in just about the rest of planet Earth, we followers of Sanaatan Dharm remain, as we were, resilient, resolute, unchanging, with the same cultural and religious practices as in 500 or 1000 plus BC, perhaps even 4000BC Plus!.
Now that, I respectfully submit, is something truly special. We were there when Babylon rose and fell; and we are still here, in the 21st Century.

To the mainstream of Sanaatani people, it doesnt matter; we are more concerned with out duties and our lives; our scriptures are pretty much specific – do your duty towards nation, family and society. Nothing else matters. You are alive just for one reason : to do your duty to family and society, period.

But, to some people, the loss of political power in the early part of the 1st millennium onwards till the 18th century is proof of the mythical “fall” of Sanaatani power. There is a burning desire to see Sanaatani followers as powerful militarily and otherwise; they tend to forget that the real power of a Sanaatan Dharmi is, as per me, his or her internal strength and resolute and rock-hard belief system that has withstood centuries & millennia of epochal buffeting winds and changes.

To simplify, it isnt really about others; it is a burning internal desire to strengthen our own Sanaatan Society that is one part of the driving factor – giving rise to forces like the Sangh. Now this can be both positive as well as negative; that we need a Sangh, a body of social drivers that can ensure continued passing on of values and norms is beyond argument; I myself am a fan of the Sangh’s socio-cultural activities, and how they strive towards creating a good citizen, as well as driving the power of our religion into their minds, as also inculcating a feeling of pride in our heritage, which are all positives. {I have used the Sangh here just as an example}

On persecution of Sanaatan Dharm followers : that is a statement that has some basis in fact, and there is no point denying it, Yes, we Sanaatan Dharm followers are, in my opinion, one of the two most persecuted people on this planet – and in our own land, to boot. We, and the Jews stand as exemplary people in the history of the Earth : no one has been persecuted as much as us, and by just about everyone. It is a matter of inconsequential debate as to who was persecuted more : {my opinion, The Jews have been through more than us} – and is an academic point.  
But who persecuted us really – the Arabs, or the British? And what about the active cooperation of local kings with the invaders? What about the various treaties and friendships that happened during medieval times? And why are we forgetting the active conversion campaigns of the European Christians? {Christians were here in India since almost 70AD, and had lived peacefully. It is only after the Europeans that conversions started.  All these, and other questions will need attending to.

While the World has learnt and grown up to accept Jews, The Sanaatan Dharm follower is still held to public ridicule outside India in any number of even mainstream outlets. It hurts, damnit – and I make no bones about it. So why doesn’t this strike a chord in us?

But the real challenge is in facing this hurt, accepting it – and moving on, We cannot afford to live in ignorance; that way lies disaster, leaving open the chance of manipulation by some forces. We have to face the history, grow up to it, look it straight in the eyes, and state: You are History, I am the present, and I shall learn from you, but not want to seek justification or revenge. The current set of people have done nothing to damage us, and thus share no blame. What is past is done with, and over. Let bygones be bygones; forgive and forget.

By not facing upto the past, we are leaving the field open for one-sided narratives that blame everyone except look inward, We need to introspect, understand and face our own faults that lead to this persecution, for that is the positive way forward, We need to understand that not everyone, even in the past, was out to get us; and that the persecution, while true, was not supported by all. We, now more than ever, need to face upto the history of our nation, and learn from it; learn from our fall from grace, understand the true reasons for our fall from grace, and connect these learnings to the present day. That is one way we can fight this rising tide.

In conclusion, in this set of articles, I shall attempt to look at why India is actually getting more tolerant each day; I shall try and analyse the reasons for the rise of the rhetoric around some aspects, try and present the fuller picture, and underscore that while challenges and worries remain : there is far more reason to be hopeful and buoyant than there is to be cynical and worried… Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!

Being Indian – 5 : National Narrative Versus National Ethos

Published August 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

Concluding part of the series “Being Indian” – previous part found here : Being Indian – 4 : The Ultimate Triumph Of The West

India is a land that, as all of like to repeat ad-nauseum, is known for its diversity as well as its unity both; in fact, Unity in Diversity is the justified by-line for our Nation, our national ethos,  that is what, essentially, India stands for, and our ethos, our culture is what we are exceedingly proud of. This unity rests on the unique Socio-Cultural fabric of our nation, which has been crafted out of several Millennia of inter-mingling, living together, interacting and even fighting together. While India the nation, the political unit, may be a relatively new construct – Hindustan, or Bharat or Hind is a concept as old as this land itself, as is borne out by the scores of period documents as well as in the writings of the visitors to this holy and blessed land.

But, if you dig deeper, one can easily spot a narrative that is at complete variance with this stated ethos, and many contradictory themes emanating from within this unified cultural milieu, many inconsistencies that critics use to label us as being not quite so unified – namely, the fervent desire of a small section of our society to become a Hindu Rashtra, or the entire language debate {to be taken up in an independent article}, or the imaginary oppression during the Muslim rule from around 1150AD, or the politically charged debate around Casteism.

It isn’t my objective to defend “Unity In Diversity”; I see no reason to be defensive about my lovely nation to anyone. If the non-Indian thinks otherwise, he or she is welcome to his or her several impressions. I think all of us know what India is, at the core – so why be defensive? It is far better to ensure that we make this holy land where we have been blessed with a human birth an even better and even more strong place than it was before. And doing that requires tackling the present inconsistencies, challenging them, setting the narrative right – and taking corrective action.

That we are defensive on the topic of India and Being Indian is easily seen and can be readily observed everywhere: from our unhealthy penchant of following NRI-PIOs abroad, highlighting their achievements. This can be seen in our pandering to Western standards, rather than setting our own cultural standards based on our culture; this can be seen in our sheepishness on seeing songs in Movies,  or even in our going gaga over Indian cultural fests abroad or in the ardent following of Temples and their events abroad.

At the core of this defensiveness lies a deep-seated inferiority complex, the roots of which lie deep in our past, and are now firmly entrenched in most people, which is a real tragedy. Why should we go gaga over the achievements of people living abroad, as a small example? These are people who chose another nation over India for their life; what is the message we are giving people? Why should we care overmuch if some Tom, Dick Or Harry makes it big in The UK or The USA? Don’t we have enough success stories in India? Cant a nation find success stories locally? Why is it that NRI-PIOs routinely make front page, whereas the local successes almost never feature in any news? If you cover both with equal vigour – that is fair; but if only is found newsworthy, then this is a manifest inferiority complex.

Similarly, why should we, as Indian Citizens, care about Temples and Hindus in The USA or The UK? Of what concern is it to us? Why should a Barack Obama Diwali party hold relevance for us? Why should we follow the growth of Sanaatan Dharm worldwide? Is our religion a proselytizing faith? If it isn’t – then why can’t we leave well enough alone? And why focus exclusively on The USA, The UK and developed countries? Why not trace the growth in outlying countries, Eastern countries, or African countries? Come to think of it, why don’t the success stories of the Indian Diaspora in other parts of the World become headline news, like the cases in the USA or the UK? Is this what Sanaatan Dharm teaches us? Or does it teach us something different? Is it the contention that only PIOs in the Developed World are successful? What are we displaying by this frankly idiotic behaviour?

On an equal note is the most disturbing trend of the slowly rising – but thankfully currently minor – scenario of the Hindu Rashtra; or the habit of some among us to regard Muslim rule as being worse than British Rule. I have dealt with this extensively earlier here : Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery ; so shall not elaborate. The sad disregard for and ignorance of the evil that happened during British Rule, and the complete inability of even our Media to tell the full story is the most enduring tragedy of Modern India. What is needed is a balance, a complete and truthful exposition of all that happened during both the periods – Muslims and British; such an examination is certain to knock the sails out of the 1000-year slavery myth.

This is what this Being Indian mini-series has been about, focusing on the present inconsistencies, trying to make the reader ask himself or herself some hard questions about what it means to Be Indian. Does Being Indian mean that you have to settle abroad? Does Being Indian mean you have to study and live here just to go away? Does Being Indian mean that you are a Sanaatan Dharmi? Then what about Dr Kalam, or Paramveer Abdul Hamid, or any number of other Muslims, Christians and Sikhs? Does Being Indian mean that you have to follow Western norms? Does Being Indian mean that, by contrast, perforce have to follow Indian norms? What does it mean to “Be Indian”? What is our national story, our national narrative, above and beyond the clichéd term “Unity in Diversity”? And do we, all of us, understand, display and believe in this narrative?

How many of us can identify a snap of Kalpana Chawla – and how many of us can recognize a snap of Paramveer Nirmaljeet Singh Sikhon?  I cant recognize the latter – and that is, perhaps, the worst possible comment on us as a people, and what we value. One person, {if some records and wikiis correct} quit Indian Citizenship for the US, and the other gave his life fighting to protect us. The US citizen’s face is plastered all over our Media, which doesn’t even care to look at Kailash Satyarthi {let alone someone from the past like The Great Nirmaljeet} till The Great West awards a prize, when we suddenly discover him! {God Bless Her, her achievements were tremendous indeed – but she wasn’t Indian, and I therefore take no pride or otherwise in her achievements. And not just for her : the same applies to any PIO. They aren’t Indians}

How many among us quote the ills of The Muslim Rule and the raids of Chengez Khan and Mahmud of Ghazni? And how many of among those know and quote of the 1857 Genocide, or the Bengal Holocaust, or the Famine of the 1760s which killed an estimated 30% of the population of Bengal? How many of us quote the Industrialised India of the 1600s and the 1700s? And how many among us quote and send messages on social media and whatsapp on the ills of that period? And how many of us quote the stories of the weavers, the potters and other products of India, and of the Merchant trade – and how many just reproduce verbatim the sporadic killings of that period?

What is the actual national narrative that we are displaying by such behaviour? Is it in keeping with what we perceive as our national ethos? Why do we ignore the real heroes of our nation – those who stay in India work in India, give their lives for India? And why do we ignore the full story of the past, and concentrate instead on one part story, which is by definition a biased approach? Why do we idolize ex-Indians or even NRIs who quit India, and ignore our heroes at home? Why do we chase after stories of Temples abroad – how is it important to us as Indians? Why do we place Western Culture on a pedestal – when our oft-quoted assimilative culture specifically equates all cultures as one? Why then cant we be accepting of our own identity, and be confident of our own selves? Why this manifest effort to be someone and something that is at complete variance with what we profess to be?

Therein lies the key – our professing to be one identity, and then belying it by displaying behavior that is the complete opposite. Unless we develop a national narrative that is in keeping with our national ethos, this dichotomous behavior will remain. Ethos means “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations”; while narrative means “A representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values”, or in short – A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

In this series – Being Indian – I have attempted to look at some disturbing aspects of our national narrative that are not in consonance with our National Ethos – In simple terms, our behavior vis-à-vis our words at what we profess to value.  I have attempted to lay bare the inconsistencies; areas where we need to bring our narrative and our ethos into one… That is the subject of the next mini-series ; Developing a National Narrative


Being Indian – 4 : The Ultimate Triumph Of The West

Published July 23, 2015 by vishalvkale

This is the 4th article in the Being Indian Series : carrying on from the previous one – Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery, where I examined our so-called slavery of a 1000 years.
The impact of Colonialism on the psyche of a people and a society is a tale that needs to be told, highlighted so that firstly, healing can start; and secondly, harmful and at times divisive ideas and ideologies can be nipped in the bud. The rising feeling of a so-called ‘Hindu’ resurgence /  freedom for 1000 years of slavery / rising sectarianism / other factors, has its roots in the colonial experience, the true extent of which is not known to Indians even in the modern day; if they do know, the realization of its import is sadly absent, as shown by current events.

The assumption, gaining popular ground increasingly in a currently niche segment of our population, that we have been slaves for a 1000 years, is sadly not based on facts; this is a telling failure of our education system, which has done an admittedly laudable job of not feeding hatred against anyone; the unfortunate result of this has been an incomplete understanding of our history, particularly the history of the British rule. Further, the education system has also not been able to keep track of the socio-political changes that are being wrought  by the rise of various forces. But that is another story, to be taken up in another series. Let us leave this thought here for the time being.

Before we move into Colonialism, let us ask ourselves one question: was so-called Muslim rule, or were the Muslim dynasties really as harmful as the British? Second, why did the Muslim rulers gain a footage in this land? What did they cart away, and what did they give back to society? And what is the comparison with the British period? The hard reality is that for most of our history, it has always been the internal traitor – who was like as not a “Hindu”, who was also responsible somewhere along the line! Remember Jaichand? Hasn’t it always been our penchant to call the outsider? Furthermore, we were always divided as a people – can we run away from that? Why did we not wake up and build defences – it took 17 attacks by one particular Gentleman from the Middle East to awaken us – ­­several hundred years later? Even after innumerable attacks – Greeks, Huns, etc : we were still asleep and mindless of our own vulnerability? What were we doing all these years? Sleeping?

Not only that, Muslim rule was built upon alliances and relationships with Non-Muslim rulers as well; and large tracts of India were consistently out of Muslim yoke. I am not denying the excesses that took place; I am only saying while acknowledging the excesses, also acknowledge that good that happened; that will put the entire matter in the proper perspective. In the case of The British period, we are quick to point out the good  – democracy, unity, railways, administration etc, without conceding the bad, or analyzing the extent of the good and the bad, and the intent behind the good. By contrast, nothing good apparently happened in Muslim ruled areas, if you believe some people. Is that a fair assessment?

It is a known historical fact that in the lead-up to British rule, our international trade relationships were strong; be it spices, or be it textiles. In fact, Shivaji Maharaj actually started building a strong navy for the express purpose of defending traders from British and European piracy on the high seas. Keep in mind that the British came to India for trade, or to put it more accurately, under the guise of trade. We were known exporters with a large share of world trade and GDP; these profits from this trade stayed within India, and were not drained out to alien lands.

There was no attempt to play with the socio-cultural fabric of the society; which, given the collusion of Islamic rules with local chieftains, kings and nobility, was a given. Politically there were issues, true; there were instances of persecution, and sad happenings like Jizyaa tax, and the sporadic odd ruler who was a fanatic, like Aurangzeb. Granted. But the people were, by and large, much better off under the previous political setup than in the later British period. And that is the key to the matter! Local industries thrived; agriculture was productive, and taxation which varied from mild to slightly excessive, was not even a patch on that exploitation under British rule. There was no attempt to divide the people, or to create religious and caste tensions.

But what happened in British rule? The Bengal experience and example shows in vivid detail the pillage that occurred in economic terms, leading to a massive famine, and the ruin of a once-rich land to a condition of penury. A land where famine was sporadic, now was jolted by famine after famine every few years, as documented history tells. An estimated 40-60 Million Indians are supposed to have died due to famines alone.  These weren’t just Hindus – they were Indians of all castes, religions. Taxation increased to  50-80% of the produce; farmers were not free to grow what they wanted- cropping changes were forced; these are just 2 examples of the interference that happened. This did not happen during Muslim rule, and that is a fact.

Local Industries were destroyed; business profits plunged to a fraction of the old within a few years of the onset of British rule; weavers – for example – reduced to beggars, creating the begging problem in a land where no beggars were known on so wide a scale; landless labour class expanded dramatically as profits from agriculture dipped, creating a massive nationwide class of landless labour; Zamindari strengthened through direct intervention; industry after industry collapsed, as the inverted duty structures made imports cheaper than home-grown products for the first time in our history; new technology inflow reduced to zero; education losing steam and focus…

Next came the interventions in Religion, and the targeted conversions that started to happen on a scale not seen before – targeting all religions; and on top of all this, was the denigration and destruction of the local arts and culture scene, with Indian habits, cultural occasions and arts being targeted and derided; the advent of cultural imperialism, and the way it interrupted the development of our arts and culture; the way an ugly combination of livelihood dependency on knowledge of the English Language, and constant debasement of everything Indian by the British became associated in the minds of the people with western superiority, giving rise to a  plethora of modern issues…

But worst of all was the destruction of the socio-political fabric of this lovely nation, a fabric that had ensured its continued dominance and survival for millennia, despite its many faults and flaws. This is to be taken up in the concluding 5th part of the Being Indian Series, so let us leave this thought here. Point to be noted here is that in Trade, Industry, Arts, Culture, Economics, Religion – in just about each and every sphere of societal and political mileu in India, it is the British Rule which stands out as being the most harmful and divisive in our long history.

No period of our history has had as many tragic stories happening simultaneously on so large a scale, as under British Rule. The period prior to British rule, while not without its issues and problems, was a period of relative prosperity and growth, the many problems notwithstanding. Merchant guilds, industries, factories, agriculture scenario, trade routes and nationwide trade networks were all vital and strong just prior to the British, that is  a fact. By contrast, under British rule, wealth- which previously stayed within India, not started going out of India…

This was both through sanctioned as well as unofficial loot. Unbelievably high taxation, paying for the enite edifice of colonialism alongwith its massive perks and high expenses through internal money, the repatriation of around a full 50% of the annual budget to England; the taxation outflows, with Indian goods taxed at 80% and imports at 20%, unpaid war debts, which were as high as 40% approximately of total British war debts {as per some estimates}; complete destruction of both agriculture as well as industry as viable professions for Indians; destructions of trade routes and networks are all of British origin, and none from so-called Muslim rule.

Add to this the slaughter : the genocide of 1857, the innumerable famines, the brutal suppression of uprisings and freedom movements across India – and you have a tale of disaster that is unparalleled anywhere. The British denuded us of our wealth, and built their own developed World on our money; not only that, they also got us to believe in our own inferiority in military, economic as well as cultural terms; this was not present earlier. This is the true victory of the British Empire : getting the strongest, most resilient and innovative people on the planet to believe they are backward, decadent, weak and defenseless, and that Western culture is superior. This continuing belief in the superiority of Western Culture is the ultimate and lasting triumph of The British Raj, alongside the absolute, complete and total success of the policy of divide and rule, getting brother to question brother, getting us to question our selves, rather than our rapists…


Being Indian 2 : The Line Of Citizenship

Published July 6, 2015 by vishalvkale

In the previous article, the theme was of inclusiveness and openness in the internal and external context, and how India has always been a land where everyone has found a home. In that article, I emphasized a differential approach, recommending a differentiation between us and the rest of the World; wherein I advocated being closed in the external cultural sphere, while being completely open in the internal cultural milieu.
I am saying be open; I am also saying be closed. One can be both at the same time. How do you define being open? Open to all – to what extent? There has to be a line. I draw that line – Black, Thick and Hard: The Line Of Citizenship. Externally, on politics and economics, I am defensive; true – but that is because the situation dictates defensiveness, – but more of that later in the series. Externally, on culture : I am completely open, and for the reasons listed out in at least 17 full articles, maybe several more. {}
I state this because of our increasing penchant of idolizing and highlighting the achievements of Sanaatan Dharm followers the world over, as well as People Of Indian Origin; innumerable news articles and oodles of Media space and time is devoted to these aliens. For that is what these people are : Aliens. Had these people loved India, or looked upon India as a home, they would not have left permanently. The act of surrendering citizenship is indicative of their attitudes, their opinions and their priorities.
I don’t grudge them their choices; why should I? Just the same as they don’t have the right to intervene in my nation, or indeed my individual choices, I don’t have the right to intervene in what is essentially their individual choice. They may have been Indians at some point in time, now they aren’t – period. Now they are as alien to me as a Britisher, a Portuguese, A South African, or an Australian. The choice to cut the umbilical chord has created a divide that cannot be bridged…

Internally, I am stating complete openness, inclusiveness and confidence;. I am also emphasising unity, just the same as anyone else; I am only demarcating a line dictated by the world we live in. By drawing this line, I am clearly stating, that first we need to sort out our own problems before we set out to include the world… otherwise where is the difference between us and the West? They pontificate to everyone forgetting their own internal fissures. Remember the recent past in the USA?

By drawing this line, I am actually supporting universality and openness, since I am in effect saying that I can accept you as you are; we can live together. I will not dictate how to live to you; let us have a symbiotic relationship for mutual economic benefit given your past links to India. That, I think, exhudes confidence, practicality, and a rock-hard constitution. And an eminently workable, although exceptionally tough a path to walk. It also sets a red line : the relationship is mutual economic benefit – meaning you don’t have the right to intervene in our affairs- you are not repeat not an Indian Citizen anymore,
I find this amazing penchant of ours to highlight any headway in Sanaatani and NRI developments abroad to be both intrusive as well as strange; equally, this irritating penchant to not highlight achievements of Indians in India. Why should that be so? Why cant we highlight the achievements and success stories of the countless Indians who make it in India, who study and choose to stay in India? Why should I care if someone – even an NRI – achieves something abroad? The value that person is adding is to an alien society! Cant we think of Indian achievements – and there are hundred to go around?
It is this defensive behavior that manifests itself time and again : indicating that we have not gotten over our inferiority complexes regarding Western Culture, and its supposed superiority, which is a highly debatable and in some ways incorrect assumption, basis hard documented facts of the ugly side of their culture, just the same as every culture has bad points, including ours! Why should we, as a nation, care that some former Indian, who left India, made it big elsewhere? We should actually be devoting that time and space to Indians. If at all non-Indians, then focus on outsiders who came to India!
We have been here for 9000 years. We have seen the rise of empires; we have seen them fall and get razed to the dust. We have seen people lose their identities, their culture and get subsumed – of which there are even Modern Examples aplenty; we have seen cultures crumble; we have seen cultures and nations get destroyed by invaders -we have seen it all. And throughout this, we have remained unchanged.

We have seen the rise of might, and we have seen its crashing fall to the nadir of non-relevance. We have seen, felt and suffered the arrogance and the exuberance of might, and we are now seeing its whimper as it crumbles to dust, in the time-tested nature of this lovely existence. And through it all, we have been resolute, withstanding the strong gale-winds of forced change rip through our land and our people…

And yet, despite the force of the change, despite the insidious internal interactions wrecked upon our culture by the internal interaction with alien cultures, our culture has withstood it and stands tall and hard, as hard as it ever was. Indeed, instead of uprooting the old, what we are seeing is a repetition of the past, as this Holy Land choreographs its magic once again, assimilating the good from the other culture, eradicating the ills in the home culture, and further strengthening the bonds of the mother culture.

We have done it several times in the past; most recently in our interaction with the Arab World, where we assimilated the new culture effortlessly into our own until the sceptre of Western Interference tore apart the foundation of the adjustment before it could get cemented into stone. The manifest failure of Western Style Universalism and Culture to respect, accept, honour and integrate itself with Indian Culture is a clear failure of the Western Concepts, as on our side we have, yet again, managed to integrate the alien culture into our own culture. 
In doing so, churn has happened, tearing apart adjustments, understandings, bringing past deeds to the fore, destroying equilibrium, enhancing both perceived and real ills from a portion of the past and suppressing real ills of the immediate past, curdling perspective, and stoking sectarianism. Never has our culture faced such a brutal assault as it faced during 1757-1947, and yet it stood tall and resolute. As I observed in my previous articles, it drove a schism into our society and alienated a part of our heart from us.

And yet, despite the strongest and most vicious attack on our being, our soul and body, our Holy Land ensured that we withstood it. Sure, this has created several current and felt problems, but we are sorting them out in our own time-honoured traditions. Sure, it has created, or further enhanced, or exacerbate some social evils: but at the same time it has absorbed the good points from the attacking culture, effortlessly and seamlessly integrated them into our own cultural fabric for our own benefit.

Such is our Holy Land. And that is something special : very special indeed.
I would respectfully submit to all Indian readers here : please trust your mother a little bit more; as a people, she hasnt failed us yet. Maa to phir Maa hi reheti hai. Please have more pride and confidence in your Mom : and the blood that flows through our veins. {And if you do have the trust, forgive these words, please!}  Khoon Apnaa Rang Dikhaa Kar Rahegaa; Mehendi Toh Mehendi Hai Rang Laayegi! We have always been open, welcoming, non-judgemental, and progressive. A slide from that led to disaster, as history bears mute testimony. Let us not forget the lessons of history. But, at the same time, as I said, Khoon Apnaa Rang Dikhaa Kar Rahegaa; Mehendi Toh Mehendi Hai Rang Laayegi!

Let us look around and try and see myriad examples of positive impetus to Indian Values that can be seen everywhere we turn around and look; the rising small wave of a backlash is now evident in my reading, across the land in every aspect from tolerance to culture. In its worst form, it takes the shape of the extreme reactions like the furore over  of Valentine’s Day. These reactions, though extreme, are completely in line with the expected reactions that are bound to happen as cultures collide. How anyone expects anything else is beyond me.

Rather than cry foul over these reactions, we should welcome them; they are a sign that all is not lost; they are a sign that the Indian is beginning to re-assert. The need of the hour is not condemnation of such reactionary forces- this will only feed the fire; the need of the hour is toning down their reactions, being mature, and working around them. This is the theme of the third article; our contemporary problems arising out of our past, and our current response

India Versus Japan 1947

Published April 2, 2015 by vishalvkale

One of the most common rejoinders of our failure to develop ourselves, at least among the Urban Educated Indians, is a straight-on comparison with Japan, about how it was destroyed by World War 2, and how it is now a developed country, taking on The West on its own terms, standing tall among the committee of nations as a developed country with a tremendous set of achievements in its past 60 years, a nation with every comfort the West has, and more; whereas we stumbled from mistake to mistake, resulting in a massive gap between the two of us.
From an outside perspective, it seems like Japan and India were at comparable stages; 2 destroyed economies; and that today, Japan is years ahead. While the above statement is completely true in every respect, it also hides the reality that lies underneath. Let us peel away the above statement and take a look at the reality of the situation, which goes a long way in explaining this riddle. While we did make some mistakes, we cannot extrapolate those mistakes to the complete story, not without looking at some underlying facts that tend to throw rather a different light on things.
Just one statistic is enough to drive home the difference between Japan and India – and that we cannot compare the incomparables. The literacy rate in Japan in 1929 was 43.8%, with over 90% enrollments in schools. In India, in 2001, the literacy rate is 62.8%. Japan was at this level of literacy around 1960 or thereabouts. Whatever economic strategy we took, we would never have been able to catch up Japan, given this reality.
The net result of this high level of education in Japan can be seen in the inventions that happened between 1900 – 1945. Inventions and discoveries like The Power Loom, Aberic Acid, B Vitamin, Portable ECG Machine, VectorCardiograph, Epinephrine, Thiamine, Monosodium Glutamate, Japanese Typewriter, Electric Rice Cooker were all discovered or invented by Japanese scientists between 1900 – 1950. These are symptomatic of the overall climate in Japan in those days, as well as act as indicators of the readiness and potential of the Japanese to innovate. For, War can take away everything – but it cannot take away the basic indices of Human Development; in which Japan in 1947 was already approaching developed economy levels. War also cannot take away the culture of innovation and the internal climate from the people.
It is thus a complete fallacy if we compare India and Japan in 1947, or indeed today. The Japanese were as ahead of us in 1947 as they are today. You cannot compare the incomparables. In 1947, India was a new nation, whereas Japan was a colonial power with established nationhood concept going back a century or more. India was a shattered and demoralised new nation, who had achieved near-static GDP growth between 1900 – 1945, whereas Japan had clocked a GDP growth rate that fluctuated between -0.53 to as high as 15.85% in the run-up to 1939. There were only 4 negative years; the others were between 4 – 16 %! Japan was the first non-European country to Industrialise in 1868. Japan had hospitals, schools, basic infrastructure in place; India had nothing. Japan had an educated population with a per capita GDP that India enjoys today. In fact, as far back as 1868, the Japanese per capita GDP was 740 dollars – and the Japanese were independent to boot.  It would not be wrong to state that we are only today at the position where Japan was at in 1947!
It is thus no surprise that Japan is where it is today. And, unless we set basic parameters – Education, Health etc – we will never be able to catch up Japan – regardless of the economic model we follow. The Japanese success is the demostrated success of concentrating on the Human Development Indices. And the most critical difference of all: Japan was a colonial power, India was not. It had access to colonies, which it could harvest so that investments could be made in their own country. This is a vital factor; for 80 years, the Japanese were brought up on a diet of we-are-as-good-as-the-west; this fuels national sentiment and confidence. Take this factor, add high education levels, and established record of innovation – the result is there for all to see.
Japan is ahead today because it was comparably ahead in 1947 – along any parameter you may choose to assess. And I have not even considered the factor of diversity and national size- and the attendant difficulties being faced by a diverse  large nation as compared to a small homogenous nation. I have not even started to look at the absence of the basics of life and governance in newly independent India, or its security challenges, its internal problems or its varied challenges. We could have done better with better economic planning, yes – but that does not change the fact that Japan is ahead, primarily because it always was ahead… as we shall see in detail in this series, as I move into the Mieji Restoration in the next part…
We can be justifiably proud of our achievements, even while acknowledging our mistakes. Our mistakes harmed only us, not anyone else – unlike The West, whose mistakes destroyed civilizations and resulted – and still do result – in untold and incalculable misery across the planet. We have developed ourselves, fought our own battles, made and learnt from our own mistakes, paying for them ourselves. And in the light of the status we were in at Independence, our achievements are tremendous and a matter of intense, and thoroughly justifiable pride and celebration! Be confident of this lovely miracle called India, of this lovely, mesmerising and stunningly beautiful nation we call Bhaarat!

Jai Hind!  

{In the next part of the article, I shall look at the Japanese Mieji Restoration, and try and draw learnings for Modern India}

Casteism – A Fresh and Objective Analysis

Published March 9, 2015 by vishalvkale

This is an analysis of casteism that seeks to challenge both narratives in vogue – one, that it is centuries old, and the other that it is recent. The reality, in my opinion, has to be different; what follows is my opinion based on my extensive reading on a variety of topics. Further, at no point is it my contention that the current system of casteism is defensible – it isn’t; it is an insult to humanity. And at no point is it my intention that people did not suffer; they did…


The ancient system was the Varnic system, which is completely different from casteism; varnas where the result of deeds, not vice-versa. Then came the commercial and political structures stated below, which existed for 1500 years minimum, leading to internal marriages, and the evolution of distinct identities due to a common gene pool caused by intermarriage. 

At this point and for some time afterwards, there was no hint of casteism. The slow degeneration started in only the 2nd millennium, with the rapid socio-political changes that shook India. This was added to by inbreeding, hereditary vocations, and increasing difficulty in moving outside your vocation. The literary record bears proof that earlier, it was possible for a shift; the same record also faithfully records increasing hardline tendencies over time, over a period of millennia. 

The caste system is, in some ways, also misunderstood and mixed up with the commercial and vocational guilds that were common across ancient India. This was a linked network of commercial interests based on cultural contacts, wherein it made sense to be culturally tied due to economic sense. A study of everything from commerce to financing of wars by merchants brings that out in detail, irrefutably. 

The landless labour did not exist before the British; that is a known fact. Commercial, busines guilds, work environment of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries have been extensively documented that bear mute testimony to the truth. The caste system hardened into its current shape in the 19th century. EIC school records of the Indian system of education clearly show a caste-neutral participation among students, with all castes being equally represented.


A rudimentary mental math is enough to take raise some serious questions on the casteism myth, and that large populations were oppressed, at least in economic terms :  

Fact 1 : 121 Million Agricultural Land Holdings, NSS 2005 survey. 

Fact 2 : Between 65-75% of India is Backward + OBC + SC etc castes as per various current surveys. 

Fact 3 : Creation of Landless Labour – Dadabhai Naoroji, RC Dutt 1906, Durant 1930, Habib 2012 and others, tracing fall in productivity {earlier among the highest on the planet} indigo, non-payment of dues; rise in taxes to 50-80% of produce; destruction of primary secondary and tertiary markets; Institutionalisation and hardening of Ryotwari and Zamindary from its old form to the British form 

Fact 4 : Creation of jobless class, through closure of industrial units {we had every known manufacture in India, Fact}, leading to vast swathes of jobless skilled labourers 1800 – 1840 Habib et al 

Fact 5 : existence of commercial guilds and hereditary vocations spanning thousands of years, Romila Thapar 2005 {approx} et al; {Habib 2012}

Fact 6 : Destruction of sea trade routes through piracy by the English; loss of land trade routes due to political forces 1600-1700, leading to Merchant shipping, trade and commernce losses, losses to weavers and rural traders {Tope 2012 and others} 

121 Million, family size assumed 4 = nearly 500 Million agriculture-focussed population. Add the transient landless labour. {you can access MNREGA records for this} {Reality check current employment in agriculture @ 55-60% basis various economic data.} Now compare with data of backward castes in India; that makes around 45%. Backward : 41%, SC : approx 20%, others : 8% in one survey, which I regard as conservative. 

Put the two together. Reality stares at you. Most of the backward classes have to be in Agriculture currently {If 70% of the population is SC-ST-OBC, and 60% of population is in agriculture, the inference is straightforward}, although they are now spread across the land of India. The historical data clearly shows vitality of artisans, traders and agricultural classes, and their earnings. While it is true that by the turn of 14th-18thcenturies, they would not have found it easy to move away from agriculture; they were earning and were better off than the current situation. 

The data, when you look at it from an economic critique, doesnt add up and support the hypotheses of centuries of oppression of the vast  majority of the population. It shows a people who were well-off, and not oppressed. Extensive economic and industrial data is available. The people were well off, both relatively speaking as well as on an absolute scale. True – it was exceptionally hard to break into an occupation from outside, and it worked both ways, but that does not mean they were hand-to-mouth. Further, it was increasingly also exceptionally hard to change vocations as socio-political changes rocked India in its long history – which was the biggest problem.

You cant have a fire without there being combustible material; same applies here. The Raj exploited existing faultlines and resulted in their becoming deeply entrenched. Genetic evidence states that inbreeding among castes is not a recent phenomenon, and has a founder event going back centuries – which is the most oft-quoted argument against my presentation above. 

The earlier casteism was softer, and did not acquire its present shape then. It was entrenched in a system of hereditary vocations, with relevant skills for each vocation being passed from generation to generation. This built deep intra-caste relationships and inter-caste dependencies, based not on oppression but on a workable and eminently but brutally efficient methodology, that rivals and beats any and every modern system with a modicum of ease. 

Sadly, over time, it meant that the system became unfair to the lowermost sections of society, who would have found it hard to grow beyond their vocations. It also meant that you had to toe the lines set by societal norms. Did this stifle innovation and entrench roodhivaad or rote? That is a tantalizing thought – it tallies perfectly with our fall in scientific knowledge from the second half of the second millennium. It also gives us a more precise timeline for the problem…

This is what ensured India’s dominance for close on 9000 years – it built a system that was extraordinarily hard for anyone to break into. The proof of this is the presence of guilds that existed for centuries {Thapar, 2004/05 – will need to check precise year of her book}. Another proof comes in the writings of Sujan Rai from 1689 or 1696, who has described a flawless system of cash transfers that puts our modern IT hot-shots and western / eastern management geniuses to shame. {Habib, 2012} \

Blunt, Frank and Straight : The West or The Modern East has yet to design any system or theory or strategy that can rival this in terms of cost efficiency, effectiveness & perfection. It was exceptional, and impossible for an outsider to crack into. Evidence of this can still be seen in Modern India – with each vocation being dominated by a specific set of people.

It was this system that created the conditions for disaster, but that is not fully relevant here. What is relevant is that there was differentiation that was systemically entrenched, while not strictly oppressive. Adding slow fuel to the fire was the increasing gap between the wealthy and the others. The financing of 1857 was bankrolled by Merchants across India {Tope 2012}. This gives us a hint to both the power structure, as well as the gap in earnings. While this was between 1845-1854 {yes, the war was planned for years}, the existence of such a set of dependencies tell us that this was not a recent phenomenon. 

While people were well off {extrapolated from Habib 2012}, it is a foregone conclusion that this earnings gap would have led to a rising feeling of discontent with the existing order. The proof of this is the simple fact that what was looted from India was massive… it would not be an exaggeration to state today that every single brick in the USA and the UK has been funded by India, especially if you calculate NPV of the proceeds of the loot. I did in a rudimentary fashion… at 8% it calculates to 473 Trillion Dollars just from available numbers of a few years. {Numbers sourced from Mukherjee-2011, RC Dutt-1906, Durant-1930} 

{This calculation cannot be definitive, of course – available inflationary trends fluctuate wildly from 2-17% for the period; and it is in addition hard to calculate over such a long period – but we cannot forget that the looted money was used to build the same facilities and amenities that people now enjoy in The West, esp USA – UK.} 

What is relevant is that this tells us the difference between the everyday person and the leaders. That is one. Two, the increasingly entrenched specialisation was good for every layer of society- but the menial labour at the bottom, while not oppressed, would have found it hard to get into specialised vocations, agriculture apart. {In percentage terms, it stands to reason that they cant have been 70% of population; but again – that is no defence. 1 or 1million, differential treatment is differential treatment} 

Agriculture also slowly, over time, developed into a super-specialised vocation, creating its own ecosystem of interdependencies. This created a system that was exceptionally resilient, and hard – with each layer hopelessly intertwined with the others, creating a system of interdependencies that was virtually unassailable – while also having the potential to collapse with the right crack. 

The collapse of the prevalent socio-economic structure {Habib, Dutt, Naoroji, Tope, Mukherjee, Verma, Misra, Mishra} caused the entire system to come apart…  That is why I presented the modern scenario in agriculture to drive home the point that the current hyper-one-sided narrative of centuries of oppression that is so prevalent in The West is nonsense. Add to this the Raj tactics, which led to people trying to curry favour for benefits, leading to a stampede into social disaster – as, for the first time, it was a political intervention that was strengthening the already present fault-lines, and deepening them.  

The proof is again provided by Tope-2012, in endnotes and annotations – school enrollment was caste neutral, meaning there was no rigidity in attending school or inequality in the sense of the late 19th century. These numbers were from the 18th century, and provide an irrefutable rebuttal to the centuries of oppression theory.

To summarise, there were internal issues and faultlines in our societal structure, which did not change fast enough. In the altered political atmosphere of The Raj, these were brought to the fore very quickly, and became entrenched. 

I have tried to present a rational and objective critique based on solid evidence spanning economic, social as well as psychological factors; hope this makes sense. I may of course be wrong; that I readily admit. But this is the point at which my study is as of now. References provided in brackets, but not limited to these; there are other books as well, like Maria Misra’s work, or Pavan Verma or others which also gave me clues…  This is a continuing study for me, for frankly, no modern theory makes sense or explains all questions. Not to my mind. 

The Myth Of The Aryans

Published February 25, 2015 by vishalvkale

This post is an attempt to tackle the Aryan Myth, that still holds as true in some Indians; in the post below, I have attempted to tabulate all the known points about this theory’s rebuttal in an attempt to spread the word among Indians – at least the ones that I have come across, as one body of reading; references are provided at the end of the article. 
I have also attempted to place a logical extension- that the Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization {Indus Valley Civilization} may also have been the Vedic Civilization, although a lot more needs to be investigated and revealed if that needs to be commonly accepted as fact. 
1.   Literature: First, the RigVeda. The geographical area of the Rug Veda (Rig Ved) is clearly delineated as North West India; there is no room for any doubt. It specifically mentions the Saraswati as between the Yamuna and the Sutlej, That can only be the Ghaggar river bed. Satellite imagery has established that this used to be a massive river system in the old days. The Rugved does not mention a drying Saraswati, clearly meaning that it must have been written well before 1900 – 2600 BC. There is no mention of either invasion or Migration in the Rugved; if any migration occured, it happened before 3000 BC – if at all. There is also no mention of a central asian landscape in the RugVed; it is specific in that it mentions the Kabul river to the west and the Ganga to the east. There is awareness of the Himalayas.
2.   A Radio Metric Dating of the Indus Saraswati places the real age of this civilization to 7200 BC or thereabouts. This was announced by the ASI in an international conference on 5th November 2012. This also suggests that migration did not happen 3500 years ago, or even 9000 years ago.
3.   Second, Genetics. a 2006 study clearly identifies that the Indian population has been generally stable for a very long time, and that there has been no major injection of Central Asian Genes for over 10000 years at least. So, if any migration did happen, it was long before settlements emerged, before domestication of the horse, before the Iron or Bronze ages. We are talking about hunter gatherers, small bands of nomads etc. The latest dating of the Indus Saraswati Civilization is 9000 years – as per Radio Metric Dating; the genetic evidence is older by this than 1000+ years at least.
4.   The R1a1a gene mutation is found in North India and East Europeans, South Siberia, Tajikistan and North Eastern Iran, A study on this conducted in 2010 found that the oldest strain of the R1a1a branch was concentrated in the Gujarat-Sindh-Western Rajasthan region of India, suggesting that this was close to the origin of the genetic group. A mutation M458 is found in Europeans, but is not found at all in Asians. This M458 mutation is at least 8000 years old, thus lending credence to the observations above
From this we can see that the Aryan Migration never happened; Literary, Archeological as well as genetic evidence all points to the reverse. There is no longer any room for any doubt whatsoever…
There are 2 prominent theories of the Aryans. The first and the older one places the aryans as people from Western Asia – specifically Iran. The newer theory places the Aryans as residents of Afghanistan, Northwest India. The newer is now gaining prominence, with the only disagreement being Afghanistan or India? Central to the second theory is the identification of the river referred to in Vedic scriptures as Saraswati or Ila. Some people refer it to Northwest India, citing satellite research (which is to me pretty convincing), while others place it as a river system in Afghanistan. 
 Let us now look at the evidence regarding the above. This rests on scientific, archeological, scriptural and linguistic basis. The scientific evidence is the identification of The Saraswati as flowing nearly parallel to the Indus, which has now been identified by satellite imagery to be the Ghaggar Basin. The scriptural evidence has to do with the Vedas, which represent the Ila (Saraswati) as initially being a massive river, which subsequently dried up. There are other descriptions in Vedic literature regarding the flora and fauna etc which identify the place as Northern India – or Afghanistan upto Iran borders.
Archeological evidence  has to do with sites around the Indus – most critically, 70% sites of the civilization have been found to be precisely along the banks of the Saraswati River bed. Further evidence are the pottery, the seals, the water baths, the ritual fires etc. The linguistic evidence is the clincher in that if you compare the Avestan language with Vedic sanskrit, the similarities are simply too uncanny to be ignored, The Gods in Vedas are the bad ones in Avesta, for ex. There are many such similarities which make it crystal clear that if you are to identify the Aryans, we can only look to Eastern Iran, Afghanistan and Northwestern India. 
The Aryans were a people living along the banks of a massive river system (let us leave which one for the time being to avoid argument); as the river dried up, there was a natural migration. The people on the west bank migrated to Iran and regions west, while the people on the east bank migrated to the Gangetic plains of India. This satisfies the critical  linguistic evidence, as it is the only explanation that holds water for the similarity between Avestan and Vedic language. It also fits in with the scriptural evidence, as well as the archeological evidence on all points

Next, consider migration out of Africa – starting 75000 – 60000 years ago. A small band of hunter migrated to Arabia; all modern Humans in Eurasia are thought to be from this group. 

In those days, the sea level was much lower; which meant a low-lying and rich path to India. This is also an established scientific fact. Thus, there was no European link at all even in the initial stages. At the most, there may have been some inward drifting during the ice-age – the last of which was in 18000 BC. This is 16500 years before the supposed Aryan Invasion Theory. After this time, there was no inward migration or invasion. 

This is also borne out by archeological, linguistic and scriptural evidence. The Rugved is specific: the landscape is Northwest India. The Rugved is known to be prior to 3000 BC, as it mentions a flowing and mighty Saraswati. It is now a known  scientific fact that the Saraswati flowed precisely where the Rugved says; that it was one of the mightiest rivers known; and that it dried up in 1900BC, with a reduced flow from 2500BC. The Rugved does not mention any invasion or inward drift; it does not mention a shift; it does not mention anything. The description is specific: North-West India. All mentioned places have been found – including Dwarka. 

Further, the cultural contiguity of the Rugvedic traditions also confirm the above; by no stretch of imagination would a conquering tribe have completely converted to Sanaatani thoughts. If the Rugevedic people were in India from 3000BC-plus, who were they?  The wide prevalence of linguistic lineages in India from Sanrkrut and Prakrut also indicate an origin in India. All evidence from Genetics to Archeology point to an Indian origin; migration – if any – must have been prior to 40000 years ago – as evidenced in the genetic studies above. All 4 cant be wrong!

References {The ones I have studied so far in my hunt to understand my lovely nation: 

·      The Land of the Seven Rivers – A Brief History of India’s Geography;
·… : Article on Separating the post-Glacial coancestry of European and Asian Y chromosomes within haplogroup R1a; Refer the bibliography of the book for Genetics research papers references
· : The Ghaggar River Basin
·      What India Should Know – Laxmikanthan and Devi

·      I have also looked through :
 Reconstructing Indian Population History – David Reich et al – 2009
 Polarity and Temporality of High-Resolution Y-Chromosome Distribution in India Sengupta at al – 2006
 A Prehistory of Indian Y Chromosomes Evaluating Demic diffusion scenarios – Sanghamitra Sahoo et al
 Indian origin of paternal haplogroup R1a1 S Sharma at al 2009

Underhill is not the only 1; second, sample size has almost nothing to do with accuracy; it is the representativeness of the sample components that holds greater weightage.

The study above does not challenge that the the mutation does not occur is Asians ; the Underhill study specifically states that the mutation, thought to be 8000 years old, is not found in Asians.

Further, Sengupta study specifies that the Indian gene pool has been stable for 10000 years at least. In an interview, geneticist Thiagarajan specifically stated that ASI and ANI groups may date to 60000 and 40000 years. The combination of the 3 is unmistakable: that there was no migration or invasion since at least 8000BC

An unsolicited word of advice; avoid internet resources totally. Start with a book, go to its bibliography, do a google search; read the articles (prefer PDF files as they can be saved onto disk as well as the fact that generally pdf files are reproductions of actual research papers). This will enable a deep understanindg of the subject matter as well as deal with any questions the book might leave

Indian Culture : Being Indian, Truly Indian – An Examination

Published February 20, 2015 by vishalvkale

Being and becoming is definitely the flavor of the season… there are a few trends that are now clearly discernible in the national discourse in India along these lines: one is the yearning for a return to our culture and our roots, the second being a push to be Indian and buy Indian, a third is the rising tide that pushes a national narrative of a Hindu subjugation, and a fourth being the rising tide of Hindu sentiment for a golden Hindu period, with Hindu values, and morals. The icing on the cake is the moral brigade, and the attendant reverse, with the pillorying and vilifying reactions to this moral brigade. Intermingled among all these is the single viewpoint of contempt and disdain some educated Indians have for ancient Indian culture.

In the atmosphere of Ghar Waapsi, I noted that the true Ghar Waapsi will happen when we stop giving bribes, stop eulogizing The West etc. Similarly, in the light of the rise of the AAP, we are talking of a rising hope, which is great, and a rising euphoria, which is misplaced. In both the cases above, as well as the scenarios in the first paragraph,  we are talking about a complete change in a people being dreamt and imagined by a people who first of all only pay superficial obeisance to Indian Values,  Sanaatani Vichaardhaaraa and our culture, and have little or limited knowledge of history.  As a small example, just try and tell anyone the fact that Hinduism is a British creation; that our real religion is Sanaatan Dharm; note the aggressive reaction, and the ignorance.  

Being “Indian” in culture, in this context, is taken to mean something either completely superficial and  external, without getting to the core of the issue – by and large, equated with language, dress, and such like – things that have precisely nothing to do with culture, and are manifestly superficial; or something based on a biased, one sided and incorrect narrative of History. This article delves into the first aspect, and the historical narrative forms the 2nd part of this mini-series.

Being Indian is being taken and interpreted as a stance of morality in relations between the sexes, which is a loaded and one-sided sentiment even at the best of times, as another example. Some of the more interesting views is the political landmine of Hindi being needlessly and incorrectly termed the national language by some people. Being Indian is taken to mean eulogizing the ancient culture we had, with a more hardline stance pillorying even the Mughal and Arabic rulers of New Delhi from 1150AD onwards

These people forget that the very language they go ballistic over – Hindi – is a borrowed tongue, being born out of Arabaic, Persian, Awadhi, Braj and a couple of other dialects. 300 years ago, this language had not even been invented, and was in the process of being crafted – whereas some modern languages like Marathi had already evolved out of Maharashtri Prakrut and Apabhramsa several hundred years before this time. Yet, it is Hindi which is spoken across Northern India, not the other ancient languages. What does this tell us about our culture?

India has come under one political yoke many times in ancient days, and yet a single language did not evolve, and was never enforced. Even in Muslim central rule, when Persian was the official tongue, one single language did not evolve; the language that did evolve from this – Hindi – was more akin to Marathi and other Indian languages than to Persian and Arabic. Not only that, at no point did an indigenous arts and literature evolve around the foreign language in India. Point is the openness and non-interference in cultural affairs and the cultural tolerance even during Muslim rule!

On the topic of women, one side of the argument vociferously denounces the changes happening, while the other, quite naturally, in automatic and justified outrage, goes the other extreme! For the moral brigade : technically, you might have been right – had you decided to approach the problem as a point of education and awareness, rather than moral policing; an issue which meant that Indian Values need to be inculcated… but even there, we run into problems, as becomes evident in the next paragraph. On the other side: it is your life, your decision; I personally see no locus standi of anyone not from your respective families.

I am all for a reversal for the role of women to that in ancient India, provided it is in keeping with the genuine Indian culture, not what is normally pandered in the guise of Indian Culture. What was the role of women in those days, and in what societal context? Women have always had a position of primacy in the Indian household, society and politics – right from ancient times. Even in normal lives, women were not oppressed – yes, there were some practices which are unacceptable in the current societal context, like age of marriage – but by and large, they were relatively free.

If you say women should marry as per male family members’ wishes, fine by me. If you say open display of love is a no-no, fine by me. But… it can’t be a one-way street; you then have to re-examine the entire scenario: what was the overall attitude towards women in those days in our society? How safe were they on the streets? What was their contribution towards the economy, the society and politics? How were they treated, and how were they viewed? Were they objectified and treated as showpieces, as men are habitual of doing today, openly staring a women, treating them as objects? Was open display of love really a no-no in those days – within the then prevalent societal norms?

Women were treated with respect, given a pride of place, were safe in ancient India, and were not objectified, were actually honoured. Can we say that today? Display of affection was allowed within the norms of that society. Further, their contribution in economics, politics and society was valued. Given the nature of that society, and the role of women as home-makers, that was relevant. In the modern context, women are important contributors to economics, politics and society far in excess of ancient times.

If we then say that the old norms stay paramount, then revert them to their old roles, stop their contribution in various fields. Fine by me – but what about the damage to politics, economics, livelihoods of males working in organizations formed by women etc? You cant have your cake and eat it too! In other words, males want to benefit from female efforts from other families, while simultaneously keeping and treating them as property! They are fine if other women do it, their family should remain in their control… what If everyone thinks the same? What will be the difference between us and the Middle East in that case?

As a matter of fact,  a powerful case can be made for the fall of the Indian Political power in the medieval times as being a result of the rise in the maltreatment of two classes in our society: women, and the downtrodden. The rise of norms such as Sati, increasing obstruction of women coincided with the fall in our fortunes – this tallies with our scriptures, which specifically state that Gruhalaxmi has to be respected, else wealth flies away. We started ill-treating women, and our wealth went bye-bye! Remember, Goddess Sita opted to bury herself in Mother Earth rather than go back to Ayodhya!

Moving on, the easiest aspect to tackle in this narrative is the be-Indian-buy-Indian brigade, which has both economic and cultural aspects; the economic side of the argument has been well covered in mainstream media, and needs no repetition. The cultural side of the argument deals with a narrative of re-colonisation, and is a very popular and oft-forwarded message on Whatsapp and even Facebook, as well as blogs and digital media. This narrative actually is completely the opposite of “Indian” from an ancient perspective! Ancient and Medieval India was a trading powerhouse, with a vast and massive trade of a large number of goods with the entire world from the past 5000 years, which is a known and established fact.

We had trading outposts as far away as Central Asia, a busy land trade route as well as extensive commercial guilds that traded with other ancient cultures, as is evident from the mentions of India in other ancient literature from other cultures, as well as the interchanges with diverse visitors and invaders like the Greeks and the Huns. India flourished as it learned to trade far better than others – giving what it did best, and taking what it could not specialize in. This is essentially what Modern Economics states, and we did it 3000 and more years before the birth of Economics!

But this narrative never reaches the public, who focus only on be-Indian-buy-Indian, which is not only against all economic logic, but is also against our own culture, history and learnings from the past! Far from learning from our mistakes, as we saw in the case of language, women or in this case of trade, we are reacting in a way that holds some serious questions for us as a people and as a culture. Sad part is, there is no attempt in the mainstream to handle this logically, and without passion… the good part is, that the first stirrings of a logical debate on these matters has now started.

The point of the article is that “Being Indian” in culture is more about what you THINK, what you do and how you behave : Vedic values are more about honesty, cultural and religious tolerance, openness, free trade across political borders, equality of the sexes {viewed in the context of the respective era}, etc. It has to be viewed holistically, not piecemeal as per our convenience and vested interests. It also has to take into account our prevalent societal, socio-economic and other paradigms, and cannot be viewed in isolation. And lastly, it has to be based in light of facts, not a desired fiction or a notion or even an imagined Golden Period;

My small suggestion for what it is worth,,, can we all try and really be Indian in every sense of the term?

Book Review : Ramayan – The Game Of Life {Shattered Dreams}

Published February 12, 2015 by vishalvkale




Book 2

The Ramayan Retold by : Shubh Vilas

Shubh Vilas is a spiritual seeker and a motivational speaker, with a degree in Engineering and Law, specialised in Patent Law. Prominent among his teachers are H.D.G. A.C. Bhaktivedant Swami Srila Prabhuda {Founder Hare Krshna Movement} and H.H. Radhanath Swami

Words fail me… I had never known the true power of The Ramayan, or the real reason why we Sanaatan Dharm followers {Hindus} honour Prabhu Ramchandra above all… I have, of course, known the full story through TV serials, movies, abridged Amar Chitra Katha comics and abriged stories… but reading the full story is an entirely different issue. The full force of the character of Prabhu Ram hits you hard, really hard – I actually cried on a couple of paragraphs – as you realise that this person just  cannot be a human… what is in embodied Prabhu Ramchandra  is beyond description – simple, soft, and yet so totally beyond even the wildest conceptualisation of our limited minds in the modern word… amazing that there once walked on this earth a man like Prabhu Ramchandra… truly, Maryada Purushottam! And even better : you come face-to-face with the full power of The Lady Sita, whose simple, unassuming and yet tough, rock-hard countenance is a revelation to small minds like mine… 

On reading it, I can only say that I can now begin to understand why Prabhu Ram is given a place of honour… shameful of me to read it at age 40+! The translation specifically is really good; a knowledgeable person vetted it just by hearing the name of the Guru of the author, stating if that is so, then I must read it… this is a lovely translation, beautifully written, completely true to the  Ramayan in Sanskrut so far as I can tell, written with true devotion and love, and yet in a reasonable, practical and yet respectful tone. This is a book for people like me, who havent actually read The Ramayan. I am captivated by the beauty of this epic, lovely and fascinating story from our Ancient History…
This is the 2nd book of the series, and deals with the plan to place Prabhu Ram on the seat at Ayodhya, the vicious plans of Manthara and the turning of Kaikeyi’s mind, going on to how Prabhu Ram takes this in his stride. The book focuses in detail on this phase, making for stirring reading, especially in the scene the Lord breaks the news to Devi Sita, and  Lakshman. The book focusses on the beginning of the Vanvaas, their initial experiences, thoughts and journeys in the latter half

The main aspect of the book is the revelation in the scenes between the various players, with the recreation of the scenes between Prabhi Shri Ram, Devi Sita; Shri Ram – Lakshman, Shri Ram – Kaushalya etc. This is so wonderfully retold, that the scene unfolds in front of your eyes, and invariably bringing a tear to your eyes! Such is the tremendous power of the words in the book : I do not know if this is the power of The Ramayan, the skill of the Author, or both…

For those of you who havent actually read The Ramayan, be prepared for a roller-coaster ride and a highly emotional experience. I can now understand just how important The Ramayan is to us, as well as Shri Ram-Devi Sita; the emotions you experience as you read it cannot be described; at least I do not have the skill to describe them. This is also due in some small measure to the focus being not just on telling the story so much as recreating the story in front of your eyes, and in your mind. 

The entire period of The Ramayan rises in front of your eyes. I can only say that it is tragic that I cannot read Sanskrut, if a translation can be so beautiful, I wonder how unimaginably fascinating the original must be, and how transcendentally beautiful! This is an epic, lovely and fascinating translation, and has been told with respect, devotion and great love; and it shows. 

The key value addition by The Transalator is the end-notes; first, they underscore the role of the author : he is our mentor and our guide on this journey of rediscovering the Ramayan, a Guru. And the Guru has littered the book with lovely, deep and pointed end-notes as explanations of the behaviour of each character {thereby ensuring the story remains free of intrepreter bias}. This takes you deep into the story and the minds of the various players in the story, giving you a deep understanding. 

What this also does is it also brings you face-to-face with yourself, your morality, your behaviours, your views and your life, giving you a deep learning and a fascinating maturing and learning experience. And then you begin to realise the sheer power of The Ramayan and its ability to bring you to face yourself, and introspect. You also realise through these stupendous end-notes that this is a story that can be read again, and again, and again… each time, with each reading, it will give a new flavour, a new learning…

In closing, let me state that despite knowing the entire story, this book has made me appreciate Prabhu Shri Ram – Maryaadaa Purushottam, his clarity of mind, his sincerity of purpose, his simplicity of thought, his honesty and integrity, his devotion and his love for everyone. It has also made me appreciate the sheer force and incredible power of Devi Sita, her incredible toughness, her dedication and sacrifice, and her love for Prabhu Shri Ram. And let us not forget the others – Shri Lakshman, Urmila and their equations, Bharat and his incredible nature… 

Incredible that such people once walked the face of this earth, and incredible that Mother India was once blessed with the presence of The Lord Himself! 

Jai Shri Ram!

{If any errors have happened, please accept my apologies….}

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India, Stockholm Syndrome, and Hindutva {Nehru – 3}

Published February 7, 2015 by vishalvkale

This article is the next in the Nehru Series, and carries on from the previous one : Blaming Nehru : Partition – The Role Of The British,  This article focusses on meeting the question of why is accurate History important, and carries on and connects into Hindutva. I  {and people like me} am {are} still battling the Stockholm Syndrome among Indians : these posts are only an attempt to lay bare the ugly reality, and  clarify the completely misunderstood sense of history that some Indians have. I dont know how many read me; but I still do it in an attempt to tell the truth
There is a general impression among a large number of Indians that history is just history, and does not deserve great thought and attention. Added to this is the belief that all that has been told to them is Gospel, wedded to a deep-seated adulation for The West, which leads to people treating alternative viewpoints on Indian History with condescension, and a resultant blind unquestioning acceptance of the prevalent version of History.  

This is a classic sign of Stockholm Syndrome : associating all the positives with the conquerors, and blaming internal forces and factors to the exclusion of all else. We can see this everywhere : in our constant aping the western culture combined with condescension for Indianness, This can be seen in attributing false negatives to pre-British times & unquestioning acceptance of the British narrative. This can be spotted in  a variety of aspects of our day-to-day life in India, and is only to be expected, given the long captivity we have suffered. 

These two factors have deep and lasting repercussions into the modern world; on a very practical level and in all fields from economics to sociology. The only way to tackle the stockholm syndrome is for the truth to be told; and that is where an incomplete understanding of history leads to serious modern issues. The rise of the so-called Hindutva is one such example. Modern Indians – “Hindus”, to use the commonly accepted term – dont even know that Hinduism is itself a British term, and has precisely zero historical truth or relevance. The correct term? There is none. The closest we come to a name is Sanaatan Dharm
What’s in a name, you might say? It isnt just the name; the entire narrative, instead of being anti-white, has shifted to anti-Mughal, and nonsense like a Hindu period after a 1000 year rule by foreigners, which is at best a half-truth. We are a multicultural society – which is more healthy for us : blaming an external force, or an internal sub-population? Isnt it far better that we blame The British? And the icing on the cake? That version is also the truth, as we shall see in other aspects as well in subsequent articles. 
The spread of half-truth and falsehoods {originated by the British} has laid the groundwork for the communal tensions we see everywhere {not just India}, allowing communal and/or polarising viewpoints gain strength. Before attending to this, let us ask ourselves : can the Hindu be faulted for this, like 100% of Western Media is habitual of? No. That The Hindu has been {and continues to be oppressed or ridiculed elsewhere} is an absolute fact. Other faiths should understand that The Hindu has been through more persecution than anyone in recorded history – the Jews apart. If they are now rising, it is only because they {or rather, we Hindus}, have suffered for long. 
The misunderstandings of history need to be met head-on and clarified. That is why I even support the heavy-handed intervention by the BJP. I see no problem at all in telling a biased and completely exaggerated version of history and pride, given that for the past 250 years we have been told a version that is the complete opposite. Fact of the matter is that whereas the current version is based on complete falsehood, the Hindutva version is based on facts and existing ancient literature, making it far better than the western nonsense we currently have in common circulation. I would rather we also learn the Hindutva version in school apart from the illogical version currently taught. 
It is exaggerated, sure. But it is also warranted, needed as a balm, and creates a swing; with time, good sense will prevail, allowing the full truth to be told, as the more discerning challenge this new version, creating a debate, allowing truth to percolate through. Upto this day, no one was questioning the accepted versions, despite there being various holes in it. High time that the truth prevails. And for that, curdling the waters is essential
Take for example the recent utterance by the VHP stating that every Indian is a Hindu, or words to that effect. I am a confirmed moderate, but let me tell everyone : that statement is actually the a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e, verifiable and historical truth. The term “Hindu” does not have any religious overtones at all. It refers specifically to people living beyond the river Sindhu {Indus}. The religious connotations and associations to this term were started by the British. 
See how distorted historical understanding is creating and has the potential to create modern tensions? Had this been generally known, the response would quite possibly not have been anger from the other religions, but ridicule! Further, since the public does not have any conceptualisation of the reality, the interpretation they place on the above utterances is completely different. And that is what places the above statement in the objectionable category, And further, had this been common knowledge, the scope for rousing passions through this route reduces to zero. 
What is in evidence in this case is a hunt for restoring lost pride. And for true peace, it is vital that that pride be restored. And for Pride to be restored, self confidence has to return… which requires that the truth be told and accepted…
For true healing, what was once ours has to come back to us. I mean the money as well as the confidence in our culture, It has to return to its true owners. Only when we have learnt to deal with our anger can lasting peace be a reality. Hopefully by means we are best at : Trade, Economics, Diplomacy, Internal Strength, internal questioning attitude, Negotiation and Democracy. There can be no healing until the Indian People – or all colonised people – get justice… and learn to be confident of their identity, learn to be confident in who and what they are…