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Dedicated to “Bharat” and “Dharma”

Worrying about Afghanistan – and AfPak..

Things are not looking good in the neighbourhood…Power-sharing talks between the 2 rival presidential candidates in Afghanistan appear to be on the verge of collapse, raising the real possibility of a return to chaos – this after 3500 lives lost and billions of dollars. This is not the only collapse. The economy too is on the brink. The withdrawal of foreign forces is likely to make it worse..

…The World Bank has said about 97 per cent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is derived from spending linked to foreign forces and the donor community.

…Afghan elites …are increasingly shifting assets and investments to safer destinations like the UAE. Even government employees nervously wait for payday, worried the next might be delayed. Due to declining economic opportunities Afghanistan’s farmers have been hedging their bets by ratcheting up poppy cultivation since last year.

Meanwhile, troubles in Pakistan are acquiring a life of their own, prompting headlines such as this: “..Country teeters on the brink” and the rumours about a coup …Grim days ahead on the geo-political front, I worry…

Related Post: Explaining AfPak to a 4-year old

September 2nd, 2014 Posted by | Geo-Strategic Issues (incl. Nuclear, Oil, Energy), India & Its Neighbours | 2 comments

At NaMo’s swearing-in, Chanakya’s Raja-Mandala on display

For students of statecraft and history, the invitations to SAARC leaders for the swearing in ceremony of PM-designate provide a fascinating example of Acharya Chanakya’s Raja-Mandala doctrine at work.  In Kautilya’s Artha-Shastra, in Book VI, “The Source of Sovereign States”, Acharya is quoted as saying;

“The king who is situated anywhere immediately on the circumference of the conqueror’s territory is termed the enemy….The king who is likewise situated close to the enemy, but separated from the conqueror only by the enemy, is termed the friend (of the conqueror).”

This of course, is part of the Mandala theory of relationship between nation-states. What should be the relationship with the neighbouring states? What are the options available to a ruler? In Book VII: The End of the Six-Fold policy” he states:

The “Circle of States” is the source of the six-fold policy….peace (sandhi), war (vigraha) observance of neutrality (ásana), marching (yána), alliance (samsraya), and making peace with one and waging war with another are the six forms of state-policy. Of these, agreement with pledges is peace; offensive operation is war; indifference is neutrality; making preparations is marching; seeking the protection of another is alliance; and making peace with one and waging war with another, is termed a double policy (dvaidhíbháva). These are the six forms.

…..That position in which neither progress nor retrogression is seen is stagnation. …a king in the circle of sovereign state shall, by adopting the six-fold policy, endeavour to pass from the state of deterioration to that of stagnation and from the latter to that of progress.”

What of a neighbouring “enemy” of considerable power?

“A neighbouring foe of considerable power is styled an enemy; and when he…has taken himself to evil ways, he becomes assailable; and when he has little or no help, he becomes destructible; otherwise (i.e., when he is provided with some help), he deserves to be harassed or reduced..”

Interestingly, stagnation – that position in which neither progress nor retrogression is seen – may be a conscious choice for a limited purpose, in the short-term.

Thus, “Whoever thinks his stagnancy to be of a shorter duration and his prosperity in the long run to be greater than his enemy’s may neglect his temporary stagnation.” We will see why this is important in the present context.

When is peace desirable?

“…if a king thinks:–

That keeping the agreement of peace, I can undertake productive works of considerable importance….or apart from enjoying the results of my own works……or I can destroy the works of my enemy by employing spies and other secret means……if a king thinks thus, then he may increase his resources by keeping peace.”

What can one distill from this?

First, that invitation to neighbouring states (including Pakistan) is just an aspect of foreign policy, a tool of state-craft. Two, an invitation to a ceremony should not necessarily mean reconciliation. Nor shout it be construed as an overly eager act of friendship. Three, all options must always remain on the table & no single action (including peace talks) should preclude any other; there is no mutual exclusivity in the pursuit of national interest.

But most importantly, increased prosperity – even it if it is achieved at the cost of a temporary truce with an irreconcilable enemy – is in the national interest.

And therefore “Whoever (among the rulers) thinks his stagnancy to be of a shorter duration and his prosperity in the long run to be greater than his enemy’s may neglect his temporary stagnation…” Let’s look beyond this “temporary stagnation”. Let’s focus on a stronger, prosperous India!

जय हिंद, जय भारत!

Related Posts:  The “Raja-Mandala” approach to containing Pakistan

May 26th, 2014 Posted by | India & Its Neighbours, ToI Columns | no comments

What happened to my wonderful kaleidoscope?

The official website of the “Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner” of India mentions that, “Religion returns in Indian census provide a wonderful kaleidoscope of the country s rich social composition..” It also proudly states that “In fact, population census has the rate distinction of being the only instrument that collets the information son this diverse and important characteristic of the Indian population.(sic)”.  The site has a helpful and neat table of data from the 2001 census on the main page as well as the distribution of population in various states.

In 2001, out of a population of 1028m, just over 827m (80.5%) mentioned themselves as followers of “Hindu” religion in the census form. 138m Indians (13.4%) identified themselves as Muslims or the followers of Islam. The Christian population was counted at 24m (2.3%).  Barring the five North-Eastern states (Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya), Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, Hindus were a numerical majority in all other states.

Although Jammu & Kashmir was the only Muslim majority state (as well as Lakshadweep, which is a Union Territory), Muslims constituted a significant proportion of population in Assam (30.9%), West Bengal (25.2%), Kerala (24.7%), Uttar Pradesh (18.5%) and Bihar (16.5%) in 2001.  Similarly Christians constituted a sizeable number in Manipur (34.0%), Goa (26.7%), Kerala (19.0%), and Arunachal Pradesh (18.7%) in addition to the Union Territories of Andaman and Nicobar islands (21.7%).

All these are figures are based on data collected more than 13 years back. 

In 2011, India had its decadal census exercise. Although “Highlights of Census 2011” were released almost a year back, the data on count by religion has still not been released –  more than 2 years since the completion of Census.

Why?

This has not gone unnoticed. Priyadarshi Dutta is one of those who noticed. He not only noticed but has been following this matter for long. He suspects “The reason (why the religion-wise breakdown of data has not been made public) is that..(it) is sure to confirm an upsurge in Muslim population…”

Further “It is likely to reveal that the Hindu population has fallen below 80 per cent in India for the first time after independence.”

If true, this would imply “..severe micro-level changes in the entire northern belt running from western Uttar Pradesh to Assam covering trans-Ganga districts of Bihar and a chunk of West Bengal…This also has severe implications for internal security”

Priyadarshi suggests that such micro-level population shifts may be linked with increasing acts of communal violence in these areas.

During my visit to parts of this region in December 2012, this is what I noted in my diary: ..across UP, demographics are changing as “outsiders” (read Bangladeshis) keep pouring in. These “outsiders” bring with them their own interpretation of Islam – far more rigid that than the loose flowing Islam of Bismillah Khan and far less cultured the than poetry of Awadh.”

The other change in demographics which I observed during my travels was “..the increasingly young and restive population across the Doab”. This was hard to miss, as was the “…growing voice of Muslim intransigence, the stubbornness, which gets amplified multi-fold in the age of social media.. If rumours were fire to riots, social media is a conflagration all by itself..

And finally, the pusillanimity of administration – which leaves in constant fear of being branded anti-minority and communal. Every time a policeman has to think twice about someone’s religion before arresting him/her is another breath of life into communalism..”

The riots in Muzaffarnagar last year were tragic reminders of the fear I had highlighted above.

Priyadarshi’s conclusion that the proportion of Hindus in India’s population is set to decline is shared by others too. In an article titled, “Hindu population set to fall below 80% in Census 2011”, Manika Premsingh and R Jagannathan mentioned how In a country where Hinduism is the majority religion, it is a unique trend that the proportion of Hindus has shown a secular decline since 1961, matched by a corresponding increase in the proportion of Muslims.”

The article goes on to mention that “The proportion of Hindus has  shrunk from 83.4 percent (in 1961) to 80.5 percent (by 2001). This trend matches with an almost equivalent proportional rise among the Muslims – from 10.7 percent to 13.4 percent from 1961 to 2001”

Further, “Decadal growth in the Hindu population has fallen to 19.3% compared with 23.8% in 1961, as per our estimates…In comparison, the growth in the Muslim population accelerated from 30.6% in 1961 to 34.6% in 2001. (Figures for religious demography in 2011 are yet to be made available)”.

But aggregate, high-level, pan-India figures hardly reveal the real story. This is the story of demographic imbalances that are now visible across parts of India which have long-term ramifications – not just for internal security, but also the future of our culture, traditions and “Hindu” religion/ belief system itself.

In a remarkably thorough and detailed study published in the January-March, 2011 issue of Dialogue, titled, “Religious Demography of the Northeastern States of India:  Trends to look for in the Census 2011”,   Sh J.K. Bajaj* mentions how the proportion of Hindus in the population of North-Eastern states has come “..down from 61 percent in 1991 to 57 percent in 2001, registering a decline of 4 percentage points in a single decade”.

Over the same period, “Proportion of Muslims..rose from 21.6 to 23.1 percent and that of Christians from 13.7 to 16.2 percent. The decline in the proportion of Hindus and corresponding rise in that of Muslims and Christians in this region was much sharper than that observed during the earlier decade of 1981-1991; there are reasons to believe that this trend of growing differential between the Hindus and others shall get further emphasized during 2001-2011.”

Almost all the North-Eastern states (including Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya) have seen an unusual increase in Muslim population over the years – figures which suggest large-scale illegal infiltration from Bangladesh into Assam & Meghalaya and the spill-over into other states.

As you would expect, the trends are much “sharper in some of the individual states and in certain districts within those states”. In lower Assam for instance, “..several..districts..are likely to turn Muslim majority (by 2011).  

The “decadal growth of Hindus in several districts of lower Assam, especially in Bongaigaon, Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Barpeta, Nalbari and Darrang was unnaturally low, indicating the possibility of Hindus leaving the area”. In fact, “in at least 8 taluks of Dhubri, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon, the number of Hindus counted in 2001 was in fact lower than their number in 1991”.

But the most spectacular example of demographic change in the north-east comes not from Assam but another state whose name begins with the same letter. In a recent piece in WSJ titled, “A Competition for Converts in Arunachal Pradesh”, Max Bearak observed that ” The 1971 census showed less than 1 percent of Arunachal Pradesh’s residents called themselves Christian, but in 2001, 19 percent of the state’s total population and 26 percent of the tribal population put themselves in that category.  While religious data for the 2011 census hasn’t been released yet, many observers say that it is likely that Christians now form a majority of the approximately 1.4 million people in the state, with some tribes almost fully converted.”

Not surprisingly, there are serious concerns that this demographic change, coupled with aggressive evangelization and conversions would erode tribal culture and endanger the local language and customs.

South of Arunachal Pradesh lies Nagaland, a state referred to by a commentator as “…the second biggest success story of evangelists after Phillipines in Asia”.  I am reminded of East Timor – one of the only two Catholic countries in Asia today which, less than 40 years ago, had a “population (that) was only about 35-40 percent Catholic..” Today, more than 90% of East Timor is Christian. Nagaland is strategically significant and has been the focus of efforts made by American Baptists to bring all the different warring tribes on a single Baptist platform.

Sh Bajaj’s conclusion is stark“The northeastern states of India have witnessed great changes in their religious demography during the last few decades.  

In the process, large parts of Assam have turned predominantly Muslim and Nagland, Mizoram and the whole of Manipur except the valley districts have become predominantly Christian. In these areas, the changes are almost complete and the only issue of interest is whether the remnants of Hindus in these areas would continue to stay there or will their already negligible presence decline further.

The issue is not yet fully settled in Arunachal Pradesh and to an extent in Meghalaya. For these two states, the figures of 2011 census shall indicate whether the process of change there is also going to be as complete as it has been elsewhere.”

But aggressive Christian evangelization is not the only threat facing the North-East. In June 2010, while spending several days in the North-East, this is what I wrote & observed during my travels:

Infiltration from across the border continues unabated. I sensed a certain degree of fatalism whenever conversation veered on this topic. This is seriously worrying. The scale of people crossing over the border illegally is now estimated to be in thousands – per day. Almost everyone I spoke to mentioned that it will be next to impossible to identify and deport the vast majority of people who have crossed over. Most of them are well entrenched in the “system” with their names on electoral rolls and/or ration cards.

Land encroachment by these illegal migrants is particularly rampant in the border districts and hard-to-reach villages.

The new generation of migrants crossing over is more brazen and aggressive than before. It is widely believed that everyone is on the “take” – especially in the border regions…

The character of communities where the migrants are settling down is changing slowly but surely…The sounds of “Nam Prasanga” are being replaced by the Azaan(Adhan) and local customs and festivities are being overshadowed by religious processions/ congregations that sometimes take the character of display of strength.”

More evidence of significant demographic change in this region comes from a recently leaked Census report, cited by PR Ramesh in “The Untold Census Story. He writes, “..The rise in Muslim numbers is most noticeable in Assam, where they were found to make up 34.2 per cent of the population in 2011, up by more than 3 per cent since 2001. In West Bengal, this religious group’s share rose by almost 2 per cent to 27 per cent…”

We dismiss the influx from Bangladesh at our own peril. Almost four years back, political commentator Nitin Pai opened an article on illegal migration with these words (emphasis added):

“Probably the most important event in (Assam) during the last 25 years — an event, moreover, which seems likely to alter permanently the whole future of Assam and the whole structure of Assamese culture and civilization — has been the invasion of a vast horde of land-hungry Bengali immigrants, mostly Muslims, from the districts of (Bangladesh)

You might think I am quoting a contemporary BJP leader. These are, in fact, words of C S Mullan, census commissioner under the British Raj. He made these comments in 1931. If you thought that the issue of “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” is a recent one, then think again.

Demographic change in the erstwhile Assam province in the first half of the twentieth century was at the heart of the Muslim League’s demand, in the 1940s, that the territory be given to Pakistan. So those who argue that large-scale immigration from Bangladesh is one of the biggest long-term threats to India’s national security are right…”

Several others have written about this issue and the threat it poses, in particular, Sandeep Balakrishna and the redoubtable Swapan Dasgupta – who explained why “Assam will never be the same again”:

..The process may yet take another decade to fully fructify. However, if as many in the know suggest, anything between 11 and 13 of the 27 districts of Assam are now Muslim majority, it is only a matter of time before the political consequences of this monumental demographic change begin to be felt.  This is a demographic upheaval that neither Assam nor the rest of India have begun to appreciate…”

It is tempting to dismiss this talk & such reports as baseless propaganda, wild exaggerations and such. I do not wish to indulge in scare-mongering but it is hard to deny the data. And data not just from “biased” Indian sources.

In 2010, the Pew Forum brought out a report on “Religion & Public Life” on the size, distribution and growth of the global Muslim population.  The report mentioned that “The Muslim population in India increased by 76.4 million from 1990 to 2010…”. It also mentioned that (although) “Fertility rates for all populations in India have been declining in recent years, …Muslims in India continue to have more children on average than non-Muslims

What does this mean over the longer term?

While it is almost impossible for untrained commentators & analysts to “predict” future population trends, there is at least one statistic that most commentators agree is important – and is very likely a precursor of things to come.  The statistic is the population in the 0-6 age group. This is what Sh RK Ohri writes about this age-group in “Demographic coup of Islam: Agony of Hindu Civilisation”:

 “..Indians must understand the mindboggling import of Statement 7 of Census 2001 Religion Data Report (page xlii) which gives the religion-wise breakup of children in the 0-6 year age group. It shows that the percentage of 0-6 year old Muslim cohorts..is 21% higher than Hindu cohorts. This gives Muslims an advantage of 7.6% over Hindus as and when these cohorts enter reproductive age, say roughly between 2012 and 2016.

…These 0-6 yrs old cohorts (enumerated in 2001) will become reproductively active between 2012 and 2016 and continue to reproduce for the next 30-40 years. With a 21% higher cohort population and at least 25 percent less acceptance of family planning, the growth in Muslim population during the next few decades is likely to become even more fast-paced.”

Interestingly, “among all religious groups, the Muslim population of 0-6 year cohorts was highest at 18.7%.  A further analysis of 0-6 year cohorts’ data reveals that out of 35 States and Union Territories listed in Statement 7, the percentage of Muslim cohorts was higher than Hindu cohorts in as many as 31 States and UTs.”

Sh Ohri is not alone in expressing this fear. In his piece on “Indian Census and Muslim population growth”, Vinod Kumar makes a similar point: “…Even more alarming is the fact that the percentage of population in the age group of 0-6 years was maximum among Muslims at 18.7 per cent…This is a significant 20% above the rate among the Hindus.”

Unfortunately, neither the data, nor the analysis (or the implications of these demographic shifts), has been discussed in mainstream media or prime-time TV.

Some will no doubt wonder, “Does it matter?“; others would ask, “Why bother?”. A few would question my motives. To each of them, I would quote Sh JK Bajaj, once again (emphasis added):

“…We are fortunate to have systematic census data for nearly 140 years. It is important to keep appreciating and analyzing this information to know the momentous changes that are taking place in the religious demography of some parts of India.” 

Slowly but surely, the ground seems to be slipping from under our feet. We ignore this at our own peril. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat!

P.S. The fears of Hindu decline in population are not new:

In 1909, Colonel UN Mukherji had written a pamphlet Hindus: A Dying Race. His projections were based on the study of three consecutive censuses 1881, 1891 and 1901. It revealed how Hindu demographic share was declining with every passing decade. Colonel Mukherji met Swami Shraddhanand of Arya Samaj at Calcutta in 1911. His statistical and analytical study prompted Swami Shraddhanand to formulate Shuddhi and Sangathan. It was a project to bring back converted Indians into their native Hindu fold.

Related Posts: Of Indigenuous Cultures and Demographic Invasion and this post on aggressive christian evangelical tacticsIndia Breaking – Read and Weep and Startling Stats from the Eastern Front, Secular Harit Desh – Part 2, More on Muslim population growth in India and the live chat on illegal infiltration and impact on demographics

This article has been cross-posted over at ToI Blogs.

Further References: The latest census in UK too revealed a disproportionate number of Muslims among the young population:

Almost a tenth of babies and toddlers in England and Wales are Muslim, a breakdown of census figures shows. The percentage of Muslims among the under-fives is almost twice as high as in the general population.

which has also caused some alarm.

Comments, thoughts welcome as always. Pl keep your language civil and comments to the point. Thanks.

UPDATE: Relevant and interesting excerpt from an article by Praveen Swami, written in 2000 (images via Frontline):

Commissioner of Census Operations Firoze Ahmad does not appear impressed by Soz, or his figures. “He’s talking nonsense,” the bureaucrat says. “He has the published figures, but does not seem to have made an effort to understand what they mean.” Ahmad is ready with figures of his own, and lays them out piece by piece. “Let’s take the case of Jammu,” he begins, “and try and understand why the percentage of Muslims enumerated there declined.” In 1961, the census operations were conducted in February, and in 1971, in mid-March. Census operations in 1981 were, however, conducted in April. Large populations of government employees move between Jammu and Srinagar for six months a year. During the 1961 and 1971 census operations, over 15,000 employees and the ir families would have been present in Jammu, but in 1981, they would have begun the process of moving back to Srinagar and been enumerated there.

Ahmad explains in similar terms the apparent fall in the percentage of the Muslim population of Kathua. The district’s Muslim population is concentrated in areas like Lohar Malhar and Bani, and consists of large numbers of Gujjar and Bakkarwal nomadic he rdsmen. “Again, in 1981, a large number of these people would have moved on to pastures up in the mountains,” he notes. “I’d be the first to admit that the enumeration of nomadic communities was poor, but that’s an all-India problem, not one restricted t o Jammu and Kashmir.” This year, he continues, special efforts have been made to ensure that Gujjars and Bakkarwals are properly counted. Officials from the Gujjar Development Board, a community organisation, have been recruited to supervise the enumerat ion process, and physically monitor the forest check-points through which herds pass through each summer on their way to high pastures.

Ahmad is also dismissive of Soz’ allegations of a conspiracy to tamper with the figures. “What he didn’t tell the media,” Ahmad points out, “is that the population growth of Muslims massively outstripped that of Hindus in five of six districts in Kashmir Valley between 1971 and 1981. In Badgam, the one district where the growth of the Hindu population was higher than that of Muslims, it was because the Kashmiri-Pandit dominated areas of Barzulla, Rawalpora and Hyderpora, on the outskirts of Srinagar cit y, had been transferred to the revenue district of Badgam.” Another important factor is that the total fertility rates for rural Hindus in the State has been established, in successive studies, to be higher than that of Muslims. “The fact is that educati on, healthcare, and economic wellbeing define fertility rates, not religion,” Ahmad points out. “Soz seems to agree with Hindu communalists who say Muslims have more children because of their religion.”

The slow decline of the percentage share of Muslims in the State’s total population may also be driven by the influx of industrial and agricultural workers and as part of the then booming tourism industry. “Look,” Ahmad says, “if the government of India was engaged in a sinister plot to flood the State with migrants, it wouldn’t have advertised it in the census figures. The fact is, we just record who lives where. And each census form is signed by local employees.” Soz’ fear that the enumeration of migr ants will allow them to be recorded as State subjects, Ahmad says, is also unfounded. “The numbers of Army and paramilitary force personnel is submitted directly to the Registrar-General’s (of Census Operations) office,” he asserts, “and the place of bir th of migrants is clearly recorded.” In fact, the census shows that the numbers of some categories of migrants, like Partition refugees who were denied state subject status, has fallen steadily.

UPDATE II: On the Hindu population in Pakistan and Bangladesh, from Wikipedia:

In 1951, Hindus constituted 22% of the Pakistani population (this includes East Pakistan, modern day Bangladesh);[4][5] today, the share of Hindus is down to 1.7% in Pakistan,[6] and 9.2% in Bangladesh.[7] (In 1951, Bangladesh alone had a 22% Hindu population.[8])

References for the above:

  • 4. Census of Pakistan, 1951 http://www.statpak.gov.pk/depts/pco/statistics/area_pop/area_pop.html
  • 5. Hindu masjids by Prafull Goradia, 2002 “In 1951, Muslims were 77 percent and Hindus were 22 percent.” http://books.google.co.in/books?id=7zNuAAAAMAAJ
  • 6. Census of Pakistan http://www.statpak.gov.pk/depts/pco/statistics/area_pop/area_pop.html
  • 7. “Census of Bangladesh”. Banbeis.gov.bd. Retrieved 2013-06-08. http://www.banbeis.gov.bd/bd_pro.htm
  • 8. Islam in Bangladesh — U. A. B. Razia Akter Banu — Google Books. Books.google.co.in. Retrieved 2012-08-13. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=XyzqATEDPSgC&pg=PA96&dq=Bangladesh+1951+HIndus+percent&hl=en&ei=juIuTvKNEsjRrQeKx4mzAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA

 

 

April 26th, 2014 Posted by | A Hindu Identity, An Indian Identity, Conversions, Missionaries in India, India & Its Neighbours, ToI Columns | 4 comments

In the heart of New Delhi, 2500 “refugees” who came in from the cold*

First, some “facts”. “Facts” within quotes because no one quite appears to know the “truth”. I am therefore relying on emails, first-person (albeit unverified) accounts, news-reports and of course, the wonderful world of internet..As you will realise after reading this, the whole thing appears mysterious – and raises more questions than answers. Earlier yesterday morning, I was alerted to this news-report (from the HT) by Sh Krishen Kak (emphasis added, throughout):

Over 2,500 refugees from Myanmar have landed right in front of the 13th century tomb of Sultan Garhi — an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monument — at Rangpuri area near Vasant Kunj. ..Registered as ‘asylum-seekers’ by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), these families from Northern Rakhine state of Myanmar landed in Delhi a month ago and had camped in Vasant Vihar.”Following complaints from people in Vasant Vihar, they voluntarily shifted to another location,” said Nayana Bose, associate external relations officer, UNHCR. They started reaching the tomb from Sunday evening and trickled in till Monday too. Zia-ur-Rehman, from the group, said, “We demand a valid ‘refugee’ status. There is a meeting on May 15 (and) we plan to stay here till then.

I decided to dig deeper and found that the JNU Students Union has got involved and is demanding that “The issue of refugees languishing on the streets of Delhi for more than a month in the summer heat has to be addressed immediately. As of now, the refugees only have an asylum status. The government and the UNHCR must grant official a refugee status to them so that they can avail their basic rights with a sense of dignity

I also learnt that:

Over 600 Rohingya Muslim families had fled from Western Myanmar to India about two years ago… They arrived in Delhi on April 9

Just how did these 600 families turn up one fine day in the heart of New Delhi after “travelling” for over 2 years in India? No one seems to know. I then discovered (via an email from Sh Mohan Sethi) that the shift to the site at Vasant Kunj (from the UNHCR office in Vasant Vihar) happened sometime on 7th May. Subsequently an all-party meeting of the local panchayats and RWAs was called, which was also attended by the local MLA and leaders from Congress, BJP and others. It appears that the refugees had been in Vasant Vihar for at least a week before the move to Vasant Kunj (how did no one notice?). They moved to Vasant Kunj on someone’s “invitation” (Were they promised some shelter/arrangement if they moved here?). It was not clear who was providing these refugees with food, water etc.  After a lot of deliberations, the meeting concluded with a decision to wait until 15th May and see what happens after that.

The local RWAs subsequently invited a few TV channels to cover this “news” and yesterday also met CM Sheila Dikshit who assured them that the refugees will bemoved by 16th May. A few questions still remain..

  • Who is ensuring, taking care of basic hygiene and sanitation needs of these 2500-odd men, women and children?
  • What about their basic needs (water, food, shelter)?
  • Who is making sure that the conditions do not lead to an outbreak of disease or an epidemic?
  • What about security concerns?
  • Is a watch being maintained at the site?
  • What about the risk of vigilante action?
  • What about the security risk posed by the “camp” being just a few kms away from the airport?
  • What about the risk to safety and security of local residents?

Now, a little bit more about who exactly are these refugees and why did they move out of Myanmar / Burma? To most of us who are blissfully unaware of India’s geography and the strategic vulnerability along the entire north-eastern region of India, the presence of Burmese refugees in New Delhi might look like an oddity. Elsewhere in India, it is anything but..

…According to local media reports, about 50,000 displaced Burmese have been living in different parts of neighbouring Mizoram, bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh, and working at various shops and factories after obtaining work permits.

While the Rohingya Muslims are being pushed out from Myanmar, their increasing numbers in the sparsely populated and heavily forested north-eastern Indian states are a cause of concern. Many of the local people have turned hostile to the steadily increasing numbers. The fear is that these people will slip into the general Indian population. [source]

The situation is not confined to Mizoram..In neighbouring Tripura, the situation might soon become equally grim..

Infiltration of Myanmarese nationals to Tripura through Bangladesh has emerged as a new problem in the frontier state that is surrounded by Bangladesh on three sides. Since July 2011, 95 Myanmarese, comprising Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist tribals, have been detained in Tripura after they sneaked into the state through Bangladesh. Myanmarese nationals illegally crossing over into India has also become a major problem in Mizoram, with unofficial estimates putting the number of such infiltrators at around 40,000.

The Indian Passport Act permits Myanmarese nationals, particularly Chins and Burmese Mizos, to travel up to 16 km inside Mizoram as they have relatives on both sides. But most people travel beyond the 16-km limit and stay back causing both population and law and order problems for Mizoram.

It is not clear why Rohingya Muslims do not cross over to Bangladesh but the reasons may be economic. However, India is not alone in terms of their destination. And here is an account of some of the “discriminations” they suffer in Myanmar.

Coming back to Delhi, who might be providing these “refugees” food, shelter and such other basic necessities? This report has a clue (“Refugees claiming to be ‘Burmese’ at Delhi; Source: The Sangai Express / Ninglun Hanghal):

..The refugees numbering more than five hundred lives in small tent camps, thought(sicthe lad claimed that the number would be even more than that. They came all the way by road , train, most of them have scattered in different parts of the country Sajjid said.

He further explained that Muslim communities in Delhi support and help them and provide their basic food and water. Speaking in fluent Hindi, the lad further explained that they are applying for refugee status from UNHCR..

On asked what they would do after that , the lad explained that they would demand for basic rights and facilities to be provided under the refugees status.

But the fundamental questions remain: How and why did these “refugees” trek across thousands of kilometres to camp in New Delhi? Who was leading them? Who guided them? Who is providing for them? And what exactly does the government plan to do about it? Is it really hoping that they will simply go back if asked politely?

And how many are they? No one appears to know for sure (in keeping with the great tradition in Indian media). The HT report mentions “over 2500“; Indian Express (re. JNU students) mentions “600 families“; the E-pao report above mentions “500″ or more and this report mentions “..700 people. Questions and more questions…

Finally, guess what – according to “The Hindu” – is the most important dimension to this situation?

The controversy over the camping of Myanmar refugees in a protected area in Delhi has several dimensions, the most important being that the land is home to a 13th Century mausoleum for Altamash’s son, the second to be built in the Indian subcontinent [source]

Truly “MerA BhArat MahAn” मेरा भारत महान !

P.S. The Rohingya (Rohingiya) Muslims are not the only refugees from Myanmar in India..There are Christian refugees too (- not that you would notice this if you simply read the news-reports; Most simply mention “refugees”).

Recommended Readings: 1 un-named leader, 1000 illegal settlers and vote-bank politicsNotes from North-East: Indigenous Cultures, Demographic Invasion and A story about British vote-banks..

Also read: Some startling stats from the eastern front…North-East  “burning” and “India Breaking” – Read this and Weep

Update: Just came across this odd-statement from CM Sheila Dikshit:

..DDA, chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Saturday said that a way would soon be found to relocate them. “Earlier it was thought that the land belonged to Waqf Board, but it is not so. The land belongs to Delhi Development Authority (DDA),” Dikshit said.

So it is OK to encroach on Waqf land? or is it OK to encroach on Waqf land by Muslims from the Ummah? Just wondering.

* Title inspired by John Le Carre; Image courtesy: E-Pao.net

May 13th, 2012 Posted by | Geo-Strategic Issues (incl. Nuclear, Oil, Energy), Human Rights and Legal Issues, India & Its Neighbours, Politics and Governance in India | 13 comments

Krishna and Rath Yatra in Ancient Egypt?

Dear All: It is my pleasure to publish this remarkable essay by Bibhu on the Krishna worship, the Rath Yatra festival and the Gods of ancient Egypt. Please do read and share (emphasis added)…

*** Krishna worhsip and Rathayatra festival in Ancient Egypt? by Bibhu Dev Misra ***

An interesting piece of information caught my attention during my journey across the sacred sites of Egypt during early 2010. During the light and sound show in the magnificent temple complex of Karnak, I heard a voice booming over the loudspeakers: “I am Amon-Ra…The waters of the Nile sprout from my sandals.” This immediately reminded me of the Vedic Creator God Vishnu. In the typical depiction of Vishnu in Hindu iconography, the sacred river Ganges is always shown emerging from the toe of the Vishnu, while in Egypt, we find a very similar imagery associated with Amun. But who was Amun? I knew that Amun was the presiding diety of Karnak, and he was worshipped there as the Creator God, along with his wife Mut, and his son Khonsu.

The next day, while discussing about the light and sound show with my tour guide, he suddenly gave me another piece of information that I was not aware of, and that took me completely by surprise: “Amun was always depicted in funerary art and temple inscriptions with a ‘blue skin colour’ and having two feathers in his headdress.”

Now, if anyone ever travels to India, and he talks to the people there about a god having a blue skin colour, with a couple of feathers in his headdress, and from whose sandals or toes a ‘sacred river’ emerges, he will get a single answer: Vishnu, or more correctly Krishna, for it is Krishna who was always depicted with two ‘peacock’ feathers in his headdress. This realization has significant implications. Krishna is an exclusively Indian diety, whose demise in 3102 BC signified the start of the present Kali Yuga in the Vedic Yuga system. Amun on the other hand, was not worshipped in Egypt prior to the establishment of the Temple complex at Thebes. He is mentioned in the creation myth of Hermopolis as one of the four pairs of divinities who were present in the Primeval Waters of Nun. As Amun-Amaunet, he represented the ‘hidden’ properties of the Primordial Ocean. However, he was not a part of the Egyptian Ennead, the Divine Company of Gods, who were the primary deities of worship. But suddenly at Karnak, sometime during the Middle Kingdom, Amun usurped the position of Atum, as the head of the state patheon. He became the self-engendered Creator God; an early Twelfth-Dynasty inscription in the jubilee chapel of King Senusret I (c.1965 – c.1920 BC) at Karnak describes Amun as ‘the king of the gods’. Current evidence indicates that the construction of the temple complex at Luxor and Karnak may have started as early as the Middle Kingdom (c.2055 – c.1650 BC), although the buildings visible today date from the reign of Amenhotep III (c.1390 – c.1352 BC), the great temple builder of the Eighteenth Dynasty. What could have trigerred his precipitous rise to the head of the Egyptian pantheon from relative obscurity as a diety of the Primeval Ocean? And how did a whole new patheon of deities, along with associated symbolisms, rites and rituals, with gigantic temple complexes dedicated to them, suddenly spring up in Egypt during the Middle Kingdom?

I was also taken aback by the descriptions of the annual Opet festival that used to be celebrated in Karnak, during the season of the flooding of the Nile. In this grand festival, the idols of Amun, Mut and Khonsu were placed on sacred barques, which were carried in a splendid, joyous procession down the Avenue of the Sphinxes, along the 2 mile road that connects the temples of Karnak and Luxor. The celebrations have been depicted in detail on the walls of the Great Colonnade at Luxor. At Karnak, the idols of the Thebian triad were first ceremoniously washed and magnificently dressed with colorful linen and precious jewellery and placed on sacred barques (boats). The pharaoh then offered his obeisances to the barques, which were then carried by the priests, accompanied by musicians, and soldiers carrying standards decorated with brilliant plumes and streamers. Elegantly decorated horse drawn chariots, would also accompany the procession. Huge crowds of people gathered along the road, blowing trumpets, dancing and singing, clapping, offering prayers, burning incense sticks and generally raising a tremendous din. Nubian musicians and female acrobats entertained the crowd. The barques rested along the way at six way-stations that were built by Queen Hatshepsut. Once the idols reached Luxor Temple, the coronation rites of the king were repeated in a sacred ritual, which effectively transferred the power of divine ruleship from Amun to the pharaoh. The idols rested in Luxor for a period of time and subsequently came back to Karnak, in another procession along the river Nile. Although the Opet festival was initially celebrated over only 11 days, later it was extended to nearly 24 to 27 days. The festival not only symbolized a restoration of the divine right of the king to rule, but also signified a rejuvenation of the creative forces of the cosmos, through the sacred rituals and boisterous celebrations.

Amazingly enough, an exactly similar festival is still celebrated every year in the tiny coastal town of Puri, in the state of Orissa in eastern India, after the onset of monsoon in the month of July. Here, in the yearly Rathayatra festival, the idols of Krishna (or Jagannath), his brother Balaram and his sister Subhadra are carried in three magnificent chariots pulled by thousands of devotees along the 2 km (1.5 mile) road that connects the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple. I had the good fortune of being able to witness this grand spectacle last year. An immense collection of humanity had descended on Puri on this day from all over India. The actual festival, of course, had started nearly two weeks earlier when the idols of Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra were given a ritual bath and redecorated. On the day of the Rathayatra, the idols were installed on the three massive chariots, nearly 45 feet high, which had been constructed for the three deities. The chariots were kept outside the Jagannath Temple walls and the endless stream of devotees blew conch-shells and played trumpets as soon as the idols were brought out of the temple and placed in the chariots. Then the King of Puri paid his obeisance to each of the chariots. He sprinkled sacred water on the chariots, and swept the chariots clean with his golden broom. The chariots then started making their way along the Grand Avenue one by one, pulled by ropes by the thousands of devotees. Needless to say a considerable din ensured. There was loud chanting and singing, beating of drums and blaring of trumpets, as the procession slowly made its way to the Gundicha Temple. The chariots stopped at many points along the way, in order to provide an opportunity to the devotees to catch a glimpse of the idols inside the chariot and offer their prayers. It is said that one who observes the face of Jagannath during the Rathyatra festival gets absolved of all past sins. I did not accompany the procession the entire way to the Gundicha Temple. But what happens is that, after the procession reaches the Gundicha Temple, the idols rest there for a period of 7 days. After this they return back to the Temple of Jagannath, in another joyous, noisy procession known as the Ulta-Rath. The entire celebration, starting from day of Jagannath’s bathing ceremony, till his return from the Gundicha Temple, lasts for 25-26 days, nearly the same as the Opet festival of Karnak and Luxor.

The similarities between these two ancient festivals are obvious and striking. There was no doubt in my mind that the Opet festival of Karnak is identical in form and spirit to the Rathayatra festival of Puri.
As per Vedic accounts, the festival of Rathayatra has been celebrated in India for thousands of years, although the current Temple of Jagannath only dates from the 12th century CE. The festival has been mentioned in multiple Puranas, which are Vedic historical documents of unknown antiquity. The Skanda Purana states that the first Jagannath Temple was established in Puri in the Krita Yuga, which, as per the currently accepted Yuga Cycle doctrines, began at around 10,900 BC. Since Jagannath refers to Vishnu i.e. the Lord of the Universe, he was worshipped in different forms in the different Yugas. In the Kali Yuga he is worshipped in the form of Krishna. The Skanda Purana also specifies the date of the Rathyatra festival. In many other Vedic documents such as the Narada Purana, Padma Purana and the Ramayana, the virtues of worshipping Jagannath have been extolled. The festival is, therefore, indubitably Vedic in origin.

That would imply that this ancient festival, along with the cult of Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra was transferred from India to Egypt, sometime prior to 2000 BC!

That is a phenomenal idea. Although we know that Indian traders had extensive trade relations with the first Pharaohs of dynastic Egypt in 3000 BC, and sold them cotton, muslin, spices, gold and ivory, such a major influence of India on Egyptian religious systems has not been explicitly identified by historians till now. Some scholars have, however, pointed out the similarity between the culture of Egypt and Eastern India. Peter Von Bohlen, a German Indologist, mentioned that there are elements of folk art, language, place names and rural culture of Bengal (the state adjacent to Orissa and included in it in ancient times) which have an affinity with their Egyptian counterparts. However, when you consider the fact that an entire pantheon along with associated ceremonies and rituals seems to have been exported to Egypt from India, it appears that the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Emperors of India must have maintained very close relations since ancient times. This ‘pantheon’ transfer would have been possible only through express royal patronage. But when and why did this happen?  Who all were involved?

We know that when the Hyskos invaders of Egypt were finally evicted from the country after 200 years of occupation, the pharaohs Kames and Ahmes had fought under the banner of their new-found god – Amun. This event which took place in 1580 BC, signified the beginning of the 18th dynasty, which is acknowledged as the greatest royal families of Egypt. Amun became the supreme protector god of the monarchy and the state and his priesthood gained immense power. Magnificent temple complexes dedicated to Amun were established in Thebes. Is it possible, therefore, that this ‘pantheon transfer’ from India to Egypt was also accompanied by a transfer of armed forces which resulted in the defeat of the Hyskos invaders and the reunification of entire Egypt under the Pharaohs?

Interestingly, the people of Egypt themselves claimed to have come from a land called ‘Puanit’ (corrupted to ‘Punt’) located on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Punt was referred to as the ‘Gods land’ or the ‘land of gods and ancestors’. Punt can be reached leading off the Red Sea, in a south-east direction, and is described by the scholar Dr. Adolf Erman as ‘a distant country washed by the great seas, full of valleys, incense, balsum, precious metals and stones; rich in animals, cheetahs, panthers, dog-headed apes and long tailed monkeys, winged creatures with strange feathers to fly up to the boughs of wonderful trees, especially the incense tree and the coconut trees.’ These descriptions strongly suggest that Punt may be a reference to India. The ancient maritime trade routes, popularly known as the Silk Route, led from Egypt in a south-east direction, to the flourishing ports on the western and eastern coasts of India. Along these ancient routes, Egyptian and Indian ships plied back and forth since unknown antiquity, carrying precious objects of trade such as gold, ivory, myrrh, incense etc.

Col. Henry Steel Olcott, a former president of the Theosophical Society, explained in the March, 1881 edition of The Theosophist that, “by the pictorial hieroglyphic inscription found on the walls of the temple of the Queen Haslitop (Hatshepsut) at Der-el-babri, we see that this Punt can be no other than India. For many ages the Egyptians traded with their old homes, and the reference here made by them to the names of the Princes of Punt (King Parahu and Queen Ati) and its fauna and flora, especially the nomenclature of various precious woods to be found but in India, leave us scarcely room for the smallest doubt that the old civilization of Egypt is the direct outcome of that the older India.” The expedition of Hatshepsut to the land of Punt was done primarily with the objective of acquiring incense and a number of exotic goods, which she dedicated to Amun, the presiding diety of Thebes. Does that not indicate that ‘Punt’ and ‘Amun’ may somehow be connected? Is it possible that Hatshepsut felt that by bringing these items from the land of her forefathers, and from the place where Amun himself had originated, she would be performing a great service to her ‘father’, Amun, and thereby acquire his blessings.

That India may be Punt, should not come as a great surprise, since it is now widely accepted that Hindu traders colonized Ethiopia. The earliest Ethiopian tradition says that they came from a land situated near the mouth of the Indus, and this has been confirmed by the testimony of Eusebius and Philostratus. In the seventh century, St. Isidore made a summary in his Encyclopedia of knowledge derived from ancient Greek and Latin authors, many of whose works have now disappeared. Regarding ‘Ethiopians’ he says in his Etymologiarium (IX.2.128): “They came in ancient times from the River Indus, established themselves in Egypt between the Nile and the sea, towards the south, in the equatorial regions. Arnold Hermann Ludwig Heeren (1760-1842) an Egyptologist has observed (Historical Researches – Heeran p. 309): “It is perfectly agreeable to Hindu manners that colonies from India, i.e., Banian families should have passed over Africa, and carried with them their industry, and perhaps also their religious worship.” “Whatever weight may be attached to Indian tradition and the express testimony of Eusebius confirming the report of migrations from the banks of the Indus into Egypt, there is certainly nothing improbable in the event itself, as a desire of gain would have formed a sufficient inducement.”

Many questions are raised here. If Punt is India, then when did the ancient Egyptians migrate to the shores of the Nile from Punt? If we assume that the migration took place sometime around 3000 BC, at the beginning of the ‘Kali Yuga’, then who built the Giza Pyamids? Since the Pyramid complex at Giza has now been dated to around 10,500 BC (Hancock and Bauval), and since this magnificent pyramid complex is entirely devoid of any hieroglyphic engravings or inscriptions, which is very unlike the Egyptian pysche, it raises the question whether the Giza Pyramid complex was built by the ancient Egyptians or by others before them. Is it possible that was it built by a ‘race of giants’ who built similar megalithic structures around the world, including many of them in Mesoamerica? Maybe the arrival of the ancient Egyptians to the shores of the Nile from the distant Punt displaced this ‘race of giants’ and a new civilization was initiated? Whatever be the truth about ancient Egypt, it is clear that we are barely scratching the surface of it in the present times.

All images, courtesy Bibhu’s blog.

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October 7th, 2011 Posted by | Ancient Indian History, India & Its Neighbours, Indian History, World History | 14 comments

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