W’end Reading: Fake Notes, Trash, Brahma-Saraswati and AQ Khan
This is what I am reading this weekend.
West Bengal’s intelligence agencies have expressed concern that Pakistan-and Bangladesh-based racketeers are using the state’s Murshidabad and Malda districts as transit points to smuggle in fake notes to India.
Statistics reveal fake notes of nearly Rs 2.5 crore was seized from more than 300 people arrested over the past five years…
The arrested people revealed Murshidabad and Malda as transit points for the fake money racket.
…Chapai Nawabgunj is one of many centres in Bangladesh where the counterfeit notes are printed, the police said. Earlier, fake money was printed in Pakistan, the police said. Chapai Nawabgunj is located just across the Indian border in Malda and there are several entry points on the porous international border. Similarly, Bandarboni, another printing centre in Bangladesh, is close to Murshidabad.
…BSF officers said unless Indian villagers refused to be part of the racket, it will continue.
“People are very poor in the border areas. In the past three months we have arrested 12 people and seized Rs 7 lakh. Racketeers generally buy cattle by paying large amount of fake money. For one cow they pay Rs one lakh in fake money. The seller then rotates the money in the Indian market,” Vikash Chandra, BSF DIG, said.
A reader wrote to me with an experience that he says vexed him. The relevant portion of his email is excerpted below (with his permission via email):
…during a talk with a liberal friend of mine, regarding the MF Hussain episode…friend talked on the lines of what liberals usually speak i.e kamasutra khajuraho…But…his explanation that Brahma marrying his creation (daughter) Saraswati amounted to incest which according to him means Hinduism sanctifies such relationships…made me quite uncomfortable and disturbed.
This kind of “analysis” typically stems from the Wendy Doniger school of thought, which confounds the symbolic with the literal and sees sex and perversion everywhere in Sanatana Dharma. There’s a Sanskrit proverb for this phenomenon: yad bhaavam tad bhavati (broadly, you perceive according to your mental makeup).
Different Puranas have different versions of how Brahma was born but the most popular one is that he was born out of the lotus that grew from Vishnu’s navel (hence his name, Nabhija). After he was born, he created a female form, Shatarupa, who then became Saraswathi. Essentially, he fell in love with his own creation and ended up marrying her. This is the story very briefly.
If you create something–a painting, a poem, a tune–it becomes yours and many people use colourful phrases to describe their creation: “labour of my love,” “my baby,” “manifestation of my creativity,” and so on. However, we don’t hear anybody expressing a desire to feed their creations with milk and food….when you describe your artistic creation as your baby, it is implied that you are only talking figuratively, not literally.
This background is essential to understand Brahma’s supposedly-incestuous marriage to Saraswathi.
So, we have established/accepted that Brahma is the God of Creation. But is that all there is to it? The answer is yes if you take the marriage literally, physically as in a marriage between a man and a woman. But if it’s nothing more than a marriage between a man and a woman, why was Brahma so attracted to his own daughter? Being Creator, how difficult was it to create a wife for himself? And this question is what prompts us to look at the symbolism behind the supposedly incestuous marriage.
As Creator, Brahma brought to life Existence itself. Which logically means he thought of creating the physical world that we perceive through our sense organs and our mind. If you talk about the physical world of shapes and forms you need to give it a definition, or a name or label. This is known as the world of Rupa (Form/Shape) and Nama (Name), both inseparable from each other. In plain language, you look at a tree and your mind can’t be satisfied unless it finds a word (nama) to define it clearly so that when you say “tree” you know exactly what it is without having to actually look at it with your eyes. And this process of defining the physical world lies in the realm of thought. Thought then is expressed through speech.
…The shapes and forms that Brahma gave to his thoughts became the physical world. When he expressed it in language, it became speech. Which is Saraswathi, his daughter. And which is perfectly in line with Saraswathi worshipped as the Goddess of Speech (or vaak), language, and learning. …This is what Kalidasa says in the opening verse of his grand Raghuvamsha:
Vaagarthaviva Sampruktau Vaagartha pratipattaye|
Jagatah Pitarau Vande Parvati Parameshwaru||
Just as a word and its meaning are inseparable
I bow to the Shiva and Parvati, the parents of this world.
As the meaning of the word, Saraswathi is Brahma’s wife just like a wife who stays with her husband for life through good and bad times. This symbolism is pretty much true of all Gods and their wives. As the wife of Vishnu the Preserver of the world, Lakshmi is the Goddess of Wealth. You cannot hope to attain peace and order in the world without prosperity.
This then is the symbolism behind Saraswathi as both Brahma’s daughter and wife.
Do read it in full.
Next, Christopher Hitches writes about the Great Catholic Cover-Up
…Concerning the most recent revelations about the steady complicity of the Vatican in the ongoing—indeed endless—scandal of child rape, a few days later a spokesman for the Holy See made a concession in the guise of a denial. It was clear, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, that an attempt was being made “to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse.” He stupidly went on to say that “those efforts have failed.”
He was wrong twice. In the first place, nobody has had to strive to find such evidence: It has surfaced, as it was bound to do. In the second place, this extension of the awful scandal to the topmost level of the Roman Catholic Church is a process that has only just begun. Yet it became in a sense inevitable when the College of Cardinals elected, as the vicar of Christ on Earth, the man chiefly responsible for the original cover-up. (One of the sanctified voters in that “election” was Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, a man who had already found the jurisdiction of Massachusetts a bit too warm for his liking.)
There are two separate but related matters here: First, the individual responsibility of the pope in one instance of this moral nightmare and, second, his more general and institutional responsibility for the wider lawbreaking and for the shame and disgrace that goes with it. The first story is easily told, and it is not denied by anybody. In 1979, an 11-year-old German boy identified as Wilfried F. was taken on a vacation trip to the mountains by a priest. After that, he was administered alcohol, locked in his bedroom, stripped naked, and forced to suck the penis of his confessor. (Why do we limit ourselves to calling this sort of thing “abuse”?) The offending cleric was transferred from Essen to Munich for “therapy” by a decision of then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, and assurances were given that he would no longer have children in his care. But it took no time for Ratzinger’s deputy, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, to return him to “pastoral” work, where he soon enough resumed his career of sexual assault.
It is, of course, claimed, and it will no doubt later be partially un-claimed, that Ratzinger himself knew nothing of this second outrage. I quote, here, from the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a former employee of the Vatican Embassy in Washington and an early critic of the Catholic Church’s sloth in responding to child-rape allegations. “Nonsense,” he says. “Pope Benedict is a micromanager. He’s the old style. Anything like that would necessarily have been brought to his attention. Tell the vicar general to find a better line. What he’s trying to do, obviously, is protect the pope.” (*Hitchens was prescient)
Next, Gordon Chang explores China’s role in Iran’s attempts to buy the Pakistani Bomb.
Iran tried to buy three nuclear weapons from Pakistan at the end of the 1980s. Islamabad rebuffed the attempt but ended up transferring to Tehran bomb blueprints, centrifuge parts, and a list of black market suppliers of components. So says Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, in an official account revealed on Sunday.
Khan’s statements undermine both Iranian denials of nuclear weapon ambitions and Islamabad’s assertions that it had no hand in proliferating nuclear weapons technology.
…Now, Khan’s black market ring has been dismantled. No one is thinking of punishing Islamabad for nuclear proliferation. Iran, on the other hand, faces the possibility of even more punitive measures for its suspected nuclear weapons program.
The only thing that stands between Iran and new sanctions is veto-wielding China. In recent months Moscow has distanced itself from the “atomic ayatollahs,” and this has left Beijing as their primary backer.
The significance of Khan’s assertions is that they undermine the stout Chinese defense of Iran. First, they highlight long-held Iranian ambitions to build an atomic arsenal.
Second, by detailing how the Pakistani government was involved in nuclear transfers to Iran, Khan raises new questions about Beijing’s role. Why? The Pakistani nuclear weapons program is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. China, beginning around 1974, transferred bomb technology to Pakistan. Beijing’s assistance was crucial, extensive, and continuous. As Gary Milhollin of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control has noted, “If you subtract China’s help from Pakistan’s nuclear program, there is no nuclear program.” Moreover, Beijing has remained involved in Islamabad’s nuclear efforts, long after the events Khan so meticulously describes in Sunday’s statements.
The continuation of Chinese involvement in the Pakistani program was revealed when Islamabad ended the Khan ring. Due to Chinese pressure, Pervez Musharraf, then the country’s strongman leader, conducted a hurried probe, forced Khan’s confession, and then immediately pardoned him in 2004 to cut off any disclosures embarrassing to Beijing, which supported the controversial decision to end the inquiry prematurely. Given China’s role in the Pakistani nuclear program and its influence in Islamabad, it was not possible for Khan, with official blessing, to transfer Chinese technology to Iran without Beijing’s knowledge and consent.
Dr. Khan apparently did not mention China’s involvement in the statements disclosed Sunday, but the revelation of official Pakistani links to proliferant activities puts Beijing on the spot nonetheless. …
Why are we helping China keep its secrets? Perhaps the Obama administration should start disclosing—or start threatening to disclose—what else we know about Beijing’s support for the mullahs.
and finally Is India a global trash can? (Thanks Vikas)
At the start of the millennium, the picturesque Spanish city of Barcelona decided to ‘go green’ and free its historic land of waste. And so, 103.7 metric tonnes of Barcelona’s garbage — from shredded plastic carry bags to used diapers and napkins — arrived last August at the nondescript port of Tuticorin in southern India.
The three stinking containers were promptly sent back to Barcelona by alert Customs officials. However, for the last eight months, 72.59 metric tonnes of trash ranging from optical fibre waste to used oil cans and rubber hoses from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia have been lying at the Tuticorin dock, reeking.
…This year, too, 20 containers of hazardous waste from Greece and Reunion, a French colony, imported by a paper factory in southern Tamil Nadu, were “resent” from the Tuticorin port. Used syringes, juice cartons and blood-stained napkins collected by the municipal councils in suburban London were found in a pile of rubbish dumped in a well in a farm at Kemmarampalayam in Coimbatore in August 2008.
…why are the developed nations dumping their garbage on Indian soil?
Simply because shipping municipal waste to India is about four times cheaper than recycling it in their own land. While it costs Rs 12,000 to recycle a tonne of rubbish after segregation in Britain, shipping the rubbish to India costs just about Rs 2,800.
…After a British TV channel exposed how toxic waste from municipal councils in the UK were being dumped in farms in western Tamil Nadu, environmental engineers were asked to keep a close watch on the industrial units that imported the trash. Vigilance and anticorruption officials raided the offices of the Pollution Control Board’s environment engineers. While one of the engineers was caught with Rs 7 lakh in unaccounted cash, in another district pollution control office, wads of notes were, ironically, found dumped in the dustbin.
Have a safe, restful weekend.