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A Theory Of Civilization - Silence Is Assent


Jun 1, 2004
A Theory of Civilization
by Arun Kumar

How many apologizes must be made? And how many wrongs redressed? The right answer I think is: All.

All wrongs must be redressed. And all apologies made.

All of us are guilty in some measure, as Mohoni said. That is absolutely true. You and I will perhaps some day be called upon to account for the murder and mayhem in Punjab and Kashmir, for example. And that is how it should be. Maunam sweekriti soochakam. Silence is assent. In so far as we, as individuals, fail to speak out against the criminal activities of our government, and fail to prevent them, we are accessories to those crimes, and should be held liable. Those crimes were committed in our name. They were fueled by our silence, and stoked by our lethargy.

Coming back to the question of British dues. Vickram Crishna, Deepak Mohoni, Bondo San, Ramesh Advani, Leonard Tauro, Tabby Balasubramanian, and Abha Varma. Let me line up these guys and girls before the shooting starts.

Bond writes that because we have been screwing ourselves up since before the British arrived, also since after they left, we have no reason to complain. This position was vigorously applauded by Ramesh and Leonard. The British are in fact to be commended, Bond wrote, for setting up the existing structures of administration and jurisprudence in India, and for welding India into a nation with a geographical extent that dwarfs the widest sprawl of any pre-British empire. Tabby thinks that Jallianwallah Bagh is best forgotten since none of us had a grand-uncle that kicked the bucket right there --- at least not on April 13, 1919.

If I carry Tabby's argument to its logical conclusion I shouldn't worry about the killing of the Ashkenazi by the Nazis because my kids aren't Jewish. I shouldn't worry about Kashmir since I didn't go there for my honeymoon. I needn't worry about the discrimination against blacks because my nani is brown. I am therefore in the very happy situation of having nothing whatsoever to worry about.

Deepak charges me with having impugned Queeny's character. That I did not do. In fact I don't even know if she has any. In fact the question that really interests me about her is whether she wears her socks to bed, and whether she keeps them on during frolic-time with Phil. Is he ever able to knock them off her? Or was his bayonet irreparably blunted during his naval engagements with Puppoo Dyer? Maybe it just hangs about now like an old historical curiosity, an antique dysfunctional wonder, a limp celebration of lost imperial glory.

Now we come to Bond's thesis: From Chandragupta Maurya to Aurangzeb, the main purpose of the kingdoms and governments in India was to squeeze out taxes from the people. (As if governments have had other purposes in different times and different places!) The British only continued that time-honored principal of extortion. Therefore the British are blameless. Since 1947, a brown government has outdone even the British. Ergo, the Indians deserve to be looted forever. No recompense is required. In fact, you other people in the world, please come and ****** us some more. We deserve it. We deserve it. Or so Bond would tell the world.

School-history books tell us, and the RSS-BJP-wallahs tell us, that once upon a time India had a Golden Age. This is alleged to have happened in the time of the Mauryas, Ashoka, and the Guptas (Vikramaditya), 5th century BC to 4th century AD. In point of fact, as Bond also points out, this Golden Age is fiction. Even during the times of the Mauryas, Ashoka, and Guptas, there were serious inequities in the distribution of wealth. And there was slavery. The historical record is unequivocal. This is just a minor glitch for the upper-caste right-wing Hindu extremists. Since the slaves were all lower-caste people (animals, savages, dirty, lazy, uncouth *******s), the RSS would surely have us overlook this point.

Then after a few ho-hum classes (Cholas down south, Prithviraj Chauhan up north, early Muslim invasions), the pulse of school-history picks up again with Afghan invasions, specifically with the Delhi sultanate. In 610 AD God personally dictated the Koran to Mohammed, a sura at a time, and the sword of Islam brought word of the event to India in early 700's with engagements between Hindu and Islamic armies in Siestan, along the Afghanistan-Iran border.

For a thousand years following those first skirmishes Islamic armies thrust their way deeper and deeper into India, all the way from Kabul, Ghazni, Kandhar, Baluchistan, and Sindh, through the plains of the Gunga, into the Deccan, and to almost the very tip of the peninsula by the middle of the seventeenth century. The Hindu kings and chiefs gradually fell into a subsidiary and submissive role vis-à-vis Muslim invaders. The Rajput, the Maratha, and the Telugu chieftains came to be the allies and vassals of powerful Muslim rulers that governed in a highly centralized manner.

Islamic kingdoms gradually came to have an Indian character, certainly after 1580, following the initial period of Akbar's rule. The foreigners gradually forged stronger ties to their adopted land. Akbar accepted a number of wives from amongst the daughters of Rajput nobility, and in a reciprocal move opened up the highest ranks of mughal nobility (the amirs) to Rajputs and other non-muslims.

The Mogul empire lasted some three hundred years, from Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur's victory over Ibrahim Lodi, the Afghan Sultan of Delhi, in the first battle of Panipat, near Delhi, in 1526, all the way to the failed First War of Independence in 1857 when the British exiled Bahadur Shah Zafar to Rangoon, where within a short time he died. "Lagta nahi hai dil mera ujDe dayaar me. Kitna hai bud-naseeb Zafar dufn ke liye. Do guz zameen bhi mil na saki paaye-daar me."

This is not quite connected, but it's interesting to learn that Babur came to Panipat equipped with field cannon and lines of matchlocksmen, which the Lodis did not have, and had indeed never before faced in battle. Babur prevailed rather easily over the Lodis. It must have felt like America's Iraq war! The very next year, in 1527, Babur played an encore against a force of 80,000 cavalry and 500 armored war elephants, that faced him at Kanua, under the command of the Rajput, Rana Sanga of Mewar. This army was also routed by gunpowder, and by the superior tactics of the Central Asian horsemen. Rana Sanga died on the battlefield.

Theorem: If you have something worth defending, you had better have weapons that match your adversary's. Test yourself constantly in small conflicts, even if contrived, to make sure that your hardware and tactics are up to snuff. (End theorem.)

This is a strategy that no nation in the modern world has practiced more diligently than the US --- and in theaters very prudently remote from the home territories. There is a lesson here also for India's nuclear and ballistics programs, if indeed we wish to be a power of any reckoning in the next century. China seems to have learnt the lesson well. With a 9% rate of growth they will soon have the wealth; and with good nuclear and ballistics preparation they will have the means to protect that wealth

The British domination of India really started way before Bahadur Shah Zafar. He was just an impotent puppet of the East India Company's officers at his court, till rebellious sepoys swarmed into the Red Fort at Delhi and pretty much forced him into the role of their titular leader. The Company had kept him comfortable with a nice fat pension, and he was very reluctant to be seen in any way to bite the hand that fed him. This was in the Delhi of the great poet Ghalib with whom Zafar was not unfamiliar. "Yun to duniya me hain sukhanvar bahut acche. Kahte hain ki Ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur."

The last hundred years of the Moguls had seen their power ebb rapidly, and shift in favor of the British. The beginning of the British domination of India should properly be dated to June 23, 1757, when Robert Clive defeated Siraj-ud-Daula at Plassey near Calcutta. On that day India came under the sway of "Company Bahadur" (the British East India Company). In 1769 James Watt invented the steam engine, and flagged off the Industrial Revolution in England, for which the revenue drained from India became a rich and captive source of capital.

Also India became a captive consumer of British industrial produce. The balance of trade that had always been positive in India's favor for thousands of years before the British, quickly turned negative once Company Bahadur came in. However skewed its distribution may have been, the fabled wealth of India was very real. Foreign travelers repeatedly attested to the opulence of Indian cities, and to the wide choice and international variety of goods available in the bazaars of Agra and Lahore. With the coming of the British the people that enjoyed the fruits of Indian extortion came to be found not in Agra, Lahore, Ajmer, Ahmadabad, or Delhi, but in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.

Theorem: It is always preferable to be looted by a local yokel, than by international gangsters in London. (End theorem.)

Proof: The local robber is bound to spend at least some of his gains at the local bazaar. (End proof.)

Copyright © Arun Kumar.