There is No Fate But What We Make: September 2005

Friday, September 30, 2005

Are Ahoms the real Rajputs ?

First off, we should stop saying "Assam" and "Assamese". These are
british coined phrases the Ahom people can never relate to.

Ok, so what ? Why am I talking about the Ahoms ? And what do they
have to do with the Rajputs ? Read on.

The Ahoms have a proud history. They were originally a shan people
(a branch of the mongoloid family). They started migrating from the
region of upper burma into the Brahmaputra valley about a thousand
years back. Over the centuries, they intermingled with natives and
developed a culture which is mixture of various cultures.
The most significant aspect was that though they got absorbed into
hinduism and yet never developed any caste system.

How did this matter ? While the rest of India had capitulated
successively under Turkish, Afghan and Mughal invasions, the Ahoms
did not. They had their own history of aggressive empire building.
Unfettered by caste shackles, every adult Ahom responded to the
King's call to defend their homeland. For three hundred years Mughal
forces repeatedly tried to extend their suzerainty to the Brahmaputra
valley. Hard fought phyrric mughal victories only led to temporary
subjugation. The central asian battle tactics of mughal forces
which worked so well elsewhere, completely failed in these
marshy lands. Midnight boat raids were common and often annihilated
mughal garrisons. The Ahoms managed to preserve their
independence almost all through the mughal period.

The reason I have chosen to highlight this here is that the history
books taught in India are completely silent about this.
What do they teach instead ? That it was the Rajputs that fought
the Mughals. Maintaining silence about the Ahom resistance,
our history books keep eulogizing the Rajputs.
I wish to destroy this myth. Yes, there were was the Rajput
confederacy which fought Babar in Kanwa. But while the battle
is mentioned, it is conveniently omitted that Babar's strength
was one tenth in number. With a force so much smaller, Babar
defeated a confederacy of Rajput kings. So much for Rajput bravery.
If all Rajput kings together could not defeat a much smaller Mughal
army, what were the chances of individual rulers ? Babar is often
wrongly given the credit of establishing the Mughal empire in India.
He did not. It was Akbar. Babar's sole effect in the Indian scenario
was the final destruction of any Rajput chances of a comeback.
After the Kanwa battle, Rajput resistance to Mughal rule was an
exception rather than the norm. Except for Udai and Rana Pratap,
all Rajput kings accepted Mughal supremacy. Far from fighting the
Mughals, a d├ętente evolved between Rajputs and Mughals. Many
Rajput kings accepted ranks within the Mughal ministries. Many
Rajput warriors fought and led wars to help and extend the Mughal
empire (Man singh, Todarmal, Birbal). Many Rajputs created alliances
through marriages of Rajput princesses into Mughal courts. Salim's
mother (Jodha Bai) is the most well known but there were
numerous such cases.
These facts are glossed over in our history books.

Note that nowhere I am saying that Mughal empire was necessarily
a bad thing. Nor am I saying anyone who fought it was good and
anyone who helped it was bad. The peace agreements between the
Rajputs and the Mughals was a blessing for India as it ushered
in some peace in north India. Objective readers of history will
note however, that this was not a friendship of equals.
The subordinate status of Rajputs in this relationship was obvious
due to Rajput kings paying tribute to Mughal emperor and serving
them with arms and men. Also, flow of brides for marriage was
strictly one-way, towards Mughals (i don't condone this attitude but
the reality of our society is that this is a symbol of inferiority).
My goal of writing this post is merely to correct the myth
that Rajputs fought the Mughals and to create an awareness about the
Ahom history.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Clock is Ticking !

Let's face it ! We are living on a borrowed time. With the
end of the 20th century, the era of cheap fossil fuel based
energy is over.
We reached the peak oil production last year and it's down hill from here.
Unless there is a major new oil find, the world will never reach the
past oil production heights. This will have disastrous affects on the world.
Coal, the other fossil fuel, is responsible for 85% world electricity
production. And Coal deposits are not going up either.
Most of us understand the plight of countries which depend on imports
to meet energy needs. Auto industry will come to a standstill without oil.
Electricity production is bound to get affected in a major way.
However, the plight of oil exporters is not well understood. Take
Saudi Arabia. It's sitting pretty on black gold. The doubling of crude
prices has filled its coffers. It should be happy about the global
oil shortage ! However, it will be in deep trouble when the oil export
stops due to depletion of resources. Does Saudi Arabia have any
other industry ? Has it developed its human resources to transition
into manufacturing or services ? In fact, developed nations (mostly
importers of oil) have looked the other way while the Saudi Kings
followed the most regressive regime where women are not even
allowed to drive vehicles or go outside of home without a male
relative's company !
As a country it is the least prepared to handle the coming oil bust.
What are the alternatives ? We need to figure out effective ways of
harnessing renewable energy from wind, water and atoms !
At this point of time, auto majors are controlling the research on
alternative fuel cars. This is like asking the fox to count the
chickens ! Auto companies will try to maximize their profit rather
than find the best solution for the problem.
The governments need to push for more research in the renewable
energy area. Industry should get incentives to produce clean and
renewable energy.
India is rich in Thorium. We should do research in producing energy
from this in a safe and clean way. Similarly, wind and water based
solutions need to be developed. Public transportation system needs
to be set up that is usable and scalable.
The govt should support the industries by giving tax write offs on
new investments. Universities need to be supported with grants.
To pay for this extra expenditure, government should put a
10/- per litre surcharge on retail customers. If we need more funds,
there can be a 50% registration charge on private vehicles. This has
been effective in Singapore where most people do not own private
vehicles. The public transportation is good enough.
Agreed India is different from Singapore, but we can use a
combination of the above to achieve this.
Mankind has faced many challenges in the past. I have no doubt we
will meet this one too. But only if we start our efforts now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

India's Dark Secret

Every nation has its holy cows. Persons and Institutes revered
by all citizens without exception. No one questions them.
Indian army is one such institute. It's getting away with
egregious blunders, profligacy and abuse.
No one is questioning it. All in the name of "national interest".
While nation ruled by dictatorships can be excused but why is
it that Indians, proud of its pluralist views, never
ask uncomfortable questions about its army.
Here are my peeves about our national army.

First, we have too large an army. This may sound foolish
because the army is fighting battles against separatists,
and of course, the "sent from across the border" terrorists
in Kashmir.The fundamental problem is india's insistence
on solving political problems militarily. India has always
been like this -
hyderabad, goa, north east, bhindrawale, kashmir ...
you name it.
We can't think of one political problem that India has solved
using diplomacy and political acumen. India had time from
1948 to1989 to settle the kashmir in a fair and peaceful way.
There was no popular demand for "azaadi" before. In 1965,
when Pakistan sent its soldiers to Kashmir hoping to incite
unrest, not a single kashmiri cooperated. On many instances
the locals promptly reported outsiders. Why did India not
capitalize on the opportunities ? Right upto the 1987 elections,
which the central government shamelessly rigged, political
solution was possible. Having blundered again and again,
India is now trying to ruthlessly suppress the militants.
So overwhelming is the force that India is applying, that it
is using more than a hundred thousand troops in the valley
to tackle a few thousand militants.

Take the north-east. We had a golden opportunity in 1947
to integrate these states into the mainstream. The popular
sentiment was ready for it. But given that India's central
leadership has always found it hard to think for people
beyond the gangetic valley, it was not surprising that we
managed to alienate the people in those regions. If only we
studied the history of these people, we could have realized
that delhi's rule over this region has always been tenuous.
The mighty mughal army could not establish control over
this area, in spite of trying for 300 years. Trying to
accomplish this with a few decades of Indian army is
repeating a folly. We should try political options.

We now have nuclear weapons. Doesn't this increase
our sense of security ? Why has it not resulted in a
decrease in theexpenditure on the army ?
On the contrary, the defense budget has seen steep
hikes. And this has been done by none other than
P C Chidambaram, a minister whom urban middle class
seems to eulogize as the panacea of all ills.

I have an inkling why the budget never goes down.
We keep importing arms and ammunitions. Who is
benefiting from this ? There are myriad middlemen
who get cuts from defense deals. And this cannot be
happening without the connivance of atleast a section
of army top brass. Bofors and the coffin cases came
out in the open. But every defense deal steals money
from the tax paying citizens. Then there are petty
thefts and pilferage - kerosene being sold outside.
Ration and other items marked for soldiers are
easily available inthe market. The MES (Military
Engineering Service) contracts are so notorious
for corruption that it is euphemistically called
the "10 percent" service. The Army Supply
Corps (ASC) goes by the appellation of
"Atta Sugar Chor" !
Need we see more ?

A large part of the army stays occupied
maintaining itself - serving other soldiers
(barbers, medics, priests etc). While this
can be justified, do we need soldiers running errands
for officers. These soldiers called "batmans" (sic)
are a throwback to the times of british occupation
when the Indians used to do menial jobs for
the british officers.

These are the steps that should be taken to fix the
current situation :
- Use our democratic and pluralistic spirit to solve
political problems with dialog and political process.
Reduce military present and create an atmosphere
for dialogue. A happy population proud to be part
of the nation is the best defense.
- Decrease army headcount by 50%.
Augment the national army by creating a strong
volunteer army that can be called upon duty at a
short notice. This will need NCC to be upgraded.
- Decrease the defense budget. Decrease the
import and stockpiling of arms.

Jai Hind

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Complete degeneration of Indian films

Did this surprise you ? After all, aren't we making it to the
Oscars and Cannes of the world ? Doesn't that mean we are making
better films nowadays ?

No. We are making terrible films. A large majority of the films made
in Bombay are so bad that the producers should be jailed.

Time was when the films used to have a distinct storyline,
a good script and memorable songs that you could hum.
These days, films don't have even a semblance of a storyline.
Wafer thin plots masqueraded with titillating visuals are being
released, friday after friday. Even those which have some storyline
tend to be jingoistic fluff created to pander to the public just like our
politicians do to hide their ineptness ("Lagaan").

How come the central characters of most films are punjabi, upper
caste hindus (look for the surnames in the films: khanna,karan,
chaddha, chowdhri....) ? I bet the stock of people this represents is a
tiny part of the country. Yet, film after film,we go through the heroes'
love for "sadda punjab" or the heroines go through "karwa chouth".
Do you know what percentage of married women in India perform
karwa chouth ? You will be surprised.
I have nothing against any community but it's about time we saw a
malayalior a kashmiri or a manipuri character in the lead role.
Aren't they Indians ? Whatever happened to films like
"Amar Akbar Anthony" ?
Though sometimes reduced to stereotypes, you could find characters
from minority communities in mainstream films (not just in
"alternative" films like those by Nagesh Kukuanoor). I bet you will not
find any film today with a song like "Kancha re kancha re". Why ?

Talking about minority communities, have you noticed how we no
longer write the name of the film in Urdu on posters or on screen.
Why ? There was a time when Urdu words sprinkled dialogues and
film names -Muqaddar ja Sikandar, Namakharam, Noorie. And now ?
Unnoticed by the common man, Indian films have undergone a clear
de-Urdufication, much in thesame way German films purged out
everything semitic in the 1930s.

Yes, we made one film with a sikh protagonist recently. But how did
we portray him ? As a brainless policeman who cavorts with scantily
clad women !

Ah women ! they have received the worst treatment. We protest
about the daily soaps on TV and how they portray women as
weaklings. But what about films ? Do they portray women as
people or as objects ? Women are portrayed either as always
"sacrificing" for others sake (ala "karwa chouth") or as a brainless
seductress doling out item numbers.
What about the generation of children growing up on these signals ?
Girls who constantly watch this will growup with low self-esteem.
Scary.
And the boys growing up watching this, will have an unbalanced
view towards women ?
Scarier !

Even though the society was no more enlightened back then,
at least the heroines would take charge of her life and take
people head on ("Seeta aur Geeta").

Call them simplistic. Call them unreal. The films earlier had a clear
message - you do good, you get good. You do bad, you get bad.
Black and white. But now, our misplaced sense of realism condones
today's genre of films where bad is cool and good is passe'.
Anything goes and is accepted in the name of realism. So women
are either shown as "all sacrificing" for others (how regressive!)
or breaking societal rules completely and indulging in the forbidden
or the unnatural.

Can there be a balance ?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wrong history taught in Indian schools - Why ?

The history that Indians read in schools is full of misinterpretations,
selective leaving out of facts and utter falsifications !
Over the next few posts, I will substantiate this claim.
But first, the "why" ? Many people, who agree with this,
attribute this wrong teaching to the British occupation.
While I have no love lost for the British (God, I can never
forgive them for the Bengal famines that killed in millions),
I do not attribute this to them. We have been independent
for more than half a century. This is about time we stop
blaming the British for all ills in our country. This wrong reading
of history is mostly our own doing. Why do we read wrong history ?
Because this is suitable to some people !
We Indians take pride in our democracy and waste no chance to
deride our neighbour on this front. Little do we realize that
when you see who really wields power in our societies,
India and Pakistan are no different. The ruling class has been in
power down the centuries of our entire history - the changes in
political structure has had very superficial influence on
the grassroots. And it is this ruling class to whom the falsification
of history is convenient.
The falsification is not an accident or a foreign occupation
(aka "colonial") hangover.
It is by design. It exists because it makes it possible for the ruling class
to continue the current unfair setup of Indian society.

First page

Welcome !
Watch this space for discussions on these areas:
  • Indian and world history
  • Indian films
  • Media and people
  • Children
  • Women's status in india
  • Indian society
  • India's geopolitical strategy
  • Energy
  • Bengal's history
  • Personal finance (stocks and stuff.... proof that I am not a commie)
  • Employees and Employers

Charu