Month: December 2014

Pakistani women and an Indo-Pakistan peace deal can end terrorism

Get the moms on board and then pray …

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article9931016.ece/alternates/w620/babyshoe1.jpg;http://pakteahouse.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/peshawar4.jpg

As a quick default response to the massacre of 132 schoolchildren and 13 adults in Peshawar, Pakistan on 16 December 2014, the Pakistan government has lifted the moratorium on convicts awaiting the death penalty. As retribution, it implies that these convicts had been the puppet masters of the atrocity. As dissuasion, it infers that they are in league with militants: by definition, convicted criminals are not enemy combatants and come under the protection of the penal code. The measure will allow the next attack to be prepared while it makes good press, and then dutifully slides under the carpet to resurface in different garb when required. In the meantime, the Pakistan army is steadily conducting its operation in North Waziristan.

Pakistan’s professional army recruits from hereditary Kshatriya warrior clans converted to Islam. The combination results in its high combat performance. But in this case the army is out of its depth. Like the US Navy SEALS who got Bin Laden, the Pakistan Army needs precise addresses and secure transport. It apparently has neither, only a vague geographical sector where it advertised its arrival, like its American step-cousin, losing the element of surprise and allowing targets to move house.

If reports are to be believed, elements within Pakistan’s security establishment have these addresses, but need the occupants as their delivery system for asymmetric mischief with India over a hemorrhaging property dispute.

In the likelihood that the addresses are surrendered and adequate transport is available, the targets will be efficiently dealt with.

But that only postpones the problem.

The mothers, paternal aunts and paternal grandmothers embedded in the joint family system will then swing into action. The targets’ surviving sons will be reared as vengeance machines, and in another few years, regardless of right or wrong, will seek to avenge their fathers. They might repeat their fathers’ acts, or attack senior officers involved in the operation, or assassinate their children.

The generals know this.

So once the Pakistan government is through with this hanging business and mob blood lust abates, they should go after the addresses. The intelligence officers who have them (if they do), are neither former United States’ Cold War mercenaries nor corrupt. They are Pakistan Military Academy graduates imbued with professional integrity. They have been conducting their operations with the conviction that they are best serving their nation’s interest in this way. Be that as may, that is how it stands. So grabbing a few and water boarding them is another dead end.

First, these officers need to be convinced that surrendering addresses is in the highest interest of their nation— an indispensable success cog.

Second, they and their families will need to go into a witness protection program— a tall order for a country renowned for its level of corruption.

Third, and most difficult, is peace with India, which would deprive these officers and their younger protégés of any motive to make and nurture such contacts.

Parallel with this measure is the mobilization of women, crucial to long-term success.

Only other women can suborn the mothers, paternal aunts and paternal grandmothers of the targets from a tradition practiced for thousands of years. They call it badal— exchange, a two-syllable, short word for a process that is propelled by dynamics indefinable in western terms.

So, unless a concentrated action to get these wives, mothers and sisters to condemn their kin, reject this custom and decentralize the joint family system is not launched, finding and punishing the latest perpetrators will only postpone further massacres by a decade or so.

Pakistan’s hello jee fashion parade ladies now need to justify their university education and drawing room hai jee patriotism by organizing women’s study groups on this subject. Their husbands are decision makers. These women need to brainstorm the issue, refine their ideas, play devil’s advocate with each other, and present the distilled results to their husbands with stern ultimata.

Mothers of victims and potential victims can convince other women that their husbands, sons and brothers were in the wrong.

Then it will end.

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Badlu Ram could reduce India-Pakistan Tensions

Left to itself, moral uprightness can degenerate into joyless self-righteousness or intolerance of the opinions and behavior of others. It can shrivel into a dead end of blood drenched eloquence. The presence or absence of music and the type of music to which a society responds draws a thin red line between the balance of its degree of righteousness and self-righteousness. Cultural continuity, and the intensity of its practice can be studied in components of society that seek to preserve its status quo even at the risk of life and limb, which is one way to describe an army.

 

Punjab Regiment L to R :  Pakistan, undivided & India :  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/33rd_Punjabis_(15_Punjab)_(PMs)_1910.jpg;  http://defence.pk/attachments/8000c3ece83dfbdfb15dd6309b0f74b7-jpg.85154/;  http://media.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/photos/images/2011/jan11/republic_day_sm/republic_day_10.jpg

Let’s take a look at the symptomatic evolution of war marches of India and Pakistan considering that India seems to be heading Pakistan’s way.

Like all warlike cultures, India and Pakistan, whose regiments were divided only sixty-seven years ago, cherish their war songs they don’t sing, since of course they are neither sissies nor mirasi minstrels!

The exception is the Indian Army’s Assam Rifles which owes a debt to Captain Manjit Singh, a Christian officer born in Jammu, graduated from Madras University, an ace hockey player and the guiding genius behind the Badlu Ram ka badan song.

The light-hearted words reflect the dashing merriment expected of young officers close to their troops, enjoying their chota pegs. A rifleman, eyeing up a pretty girl, was put on pack drill for neglecting to clean his rifle.

 

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Enter Badlu Ram, who died in the ‘Japan Waar’, but the quartermaster was smart, didn’t declare his death and kept drawing rations in his name! The refrain, acknowledges that while Badlu Ram’s body is under the earth, his rations are still drawn— 100 years Hallelujah— bang on John Brown’s body! And here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIl1nL64KNI

This lilting march says that at least Assamese warriors do not take themselves too seriously, in accordance with General Ingle’s advice in A Soldier’s Prayer for his Son. Even their battle cry is neither religious nor nationalistic— Rhino charge!

A choice uncharacteristic of India and Pakistan whose battlefield losses indiscriminately come under Martyred and not Killed in Action, with both countries seeking to claim the self-righteous high ground.

For example, musically, one cannot disassociate the Pakistan Army from Ae Mard e mujahid Ja’ag zara https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFmHxJcG7u4. Although secular India might allow regiments to keep their religious battle cries such as Bol na’ara Haidari, Bolé so Nihal and Jai Ma Kali, their marching songs enshrine cheerless nationalism, such as Qadam Qadam, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sJqJeLwww0, the delightful exception being the Madras Regiment’s Bollywoodian Suhana Safar aur yeh Mausam Rangeen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhto634aZIUJeeyo veer Madrasi!

But it was not always so glum.

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From Sepoy to Subedar: the memoirs of Subedar Sita Ram Pande (1873), reveal that the Bengal native Infantry, formed of Punjabis, Pathans and Uttar Pradeshis, used to sing Kabhi sukh kabhi dukh, angrez ka naukar— sometimes pleasure, sometimes pain, a servant of the English!

The Karnatic Regiment went even further, singing of Queen Victoria being a “very good man…” http://research.culturalequity.org/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=24077

The pre-partition, undivided elite Punjab Regiment marched to the pederastic, Zakhmi Dil, which means Wounded Heart. John Masters in Bugles and a Tiger writes of “one of the most famous of Pathan songs, the ‘Zakhmi Dil’ (‘Wounded Heart’) begins with the words, ‘There’s a boy across the river with a bottom like a peach, but, alas, I cannot swim”.

 

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Alpha males have always flirted with homosexual phrases and conduct to flaunt their heterosexuality like sportsmen patting each other’s bottoms. Soldiers of elite units are no different.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b0/2june_2007_296.jpg/800px-2june_2007_296.jpg

Take into account Le Boudin, anthem of the French Foreign Legion, in time and space as far apart from India and Pakistan as it could be.

The prelude refers to a round-bottomed bum-boy getting sodomized in the priest’s tent, and closes with Hey round-bottom, drop your trousers, censored in public in the interests of lofty political correctness!

The South Asian constituents of a five thousand year old tradition have been successfully battered by self-righteousness. The obscurantist wind that suffocated fifty centuries of renowned tradition has become a tsunami. It has spawned mass murder in Pakistan and not to be outdone, India’s restless zealots also threaten to lead its secularism astray. .

Badlu Ram is a gust of fresh mountain air to ease the suffocation and touch base with a balanced past. India and Pakistan should be bellowing their lungs out singing Badlu Ram ka Badan.

Thank you, Major Manjit Singh.

Ray of hope for Pakistan

Santa comes to Joseph Colony

Short piece, moving pictures

by Ammar Shareef, from Dawn.com

In March 2013, an angry mob of more than three thousand people stormed Joseph Colony – a Lahore locality with an overwhelmingly Christian population – and set more than 100 homes on fire.

Lahore police stood by as the inflamed crowd torched the humble homes, admittedly avoiding clashes. Despite the outrage the incident sparked, the government took little real action. Twenty-one months later, the ghosts of Joseph Colony still haunt the Christians living in Pakistan.

A number of individuals have since sprung into action to try to make up for the senseless violence, and, in however small measures, undo the tragic wrong.

For the second year in a row, an anonymous donor managed the distribution of Christmas gifts to children of the colony’s Christian community. Distributing cricket bats, badminton rackets and colouring books among children is certainly no compensation for what happened in March last year, but it did manage to spread some smiles on the faces of the kids.

To celebrate your biggest festival in a decidedly hostile environment — no child deserves that. And it should not have been this way. We should have put an end to the madness once and for all. We should have undone every single thing that led to that situation to ensure it didn’t occur again.

But we didn’t. And it did occur, again.

And now it seems that all our children stand terrified in the midst of a menace they had nothing to do with.

Explore: Remembering Peshawar: A sombre Christmas for some

As I captured the endearing smiles of these children, I was overwhelmed with conflicting feelings: pure joy and terrible guilt.

The guilt will stay, but for a few, dear moments, let us get into the Christmas spirit and partake in the simple joys of these children.

Merry Christmas!

Ammar Shareef is a photographer based in Lahore. He can be reached at ammar.shareef@afterhoursgroup.net

http://www.dawn.com/news/1152898/santa-comes-to-joseph-colony

Hidden in Sight Remedy for Christmas excesses

South Asia’s digestive enzyme

Hark yebelching be the act of expelling air from thy stomach through thy mouth: t’will hold thee in good stead for thy Christmas gluttony but forget not the hand ‘fore thy mouth.

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Belching and digestion are blood relations estranged since the end of babyhood.

It is generally believed that east of the Suez, belching after a meal appreciates the food’s gourmet credentials. In South Asia, however, belches acknowledge the food’s digestive properties. Respecting the cooking process and selecting spices proportionate to the ingredients triggers the breakdown of food into energy. The unprompted belch signals digestive victory.

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Hedonistically rich South Asian feasts incorporate digestive dishes and accompaniements: the belch reassures the hosts that the digestive tract is tickety boo.

Since men and women not of the immediate family eat separately at feasts, the volume of the belch was adjusted to reach far and wide.

Even in between meals, expulsion of intestinal gas or air from the mouth or lower down, noisily or in silence, are considered signs of good health, despite allopathic, ayurvedic and yunani medical solutions to the contrary. The belief is even expressed in a rather rude rhyme.

This obsession with digestion was thus among South Asians, and still is.

But then what about their British first cousins, who’d figured out the triangular relation between heart-healthiness, eating beans and farting?

A host will offer second and third helpings of a particular dish with arguments based on its digestive properties.  It is also a polite host’s manner of easing the way for increased consumption under the guise of good digestion rather than greed. My wife managed to wean me off the habit of extolling the digestive merits of each dish when her English compatriots were at our table. However, the habit still tends to rear its head in defiance at the oddest of moments.

Accompanying salads, pickles, chutneys and raitas, doubtlessly stand-alone taste enhancers, are actually supporting elements for the main thrust of meat dishes which are a digestive challenge. So a wedding feast is invariably concluded by spinach and meat, the spinach ensuring against any risk of getting blocked.

The wise guest, hedging bets, will of course have a drink of isabgol da chilka— psylliam husk— before going to bed that evening.

In their Anglo-centric cultural myopia, the British unblinkingly lumped South Asian belching on the Middle Eastern logic. Hardly surprising when Collins & Lapierre’s acclaimed Freedom at Midnight remarks how little the British actually understood the Indian culture beyond what they needed to ensure their rule.

Mazhar Shah, Pakistan’s reigning celluloid villain of the 60s, summed up the relations between digestion and belching in one of his most famous lines: “I could eat up your whole family and not even belch”!

For the interested, listen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SQsBWYeriM

Diasporic Pakistani Christmas menu

Biryanis and Christmas cakes from Pakistan to Europe

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Pakistani Christians have been able to create their own Christmas menu without any conflict with their belief system, combining the best of several worlds. Ladoos, gulab jamans, pala’a and sha’ami kababs had no quarrel with Christmas puddings, roasts and trifles, just as shalwar kameezes, turbans, achkans and suits harmonized with comfort. Christmas trees have always been a minority option.

Pakistani Christians are all converts from Hinduism, Budhism, Islam, Sikhism and Animism. The converts’ pre and post Christian socio-economic parameters continue to overlap the conflicting forces of their pre and post Christian culture.

The outward manifestations of culture can be reduced to the life cycle of birth, marriage, and death, with the addition of the major religious festivals.

Before the creation of Pakistan, these celebrations retained their Hindu bias within a British cultural framework (or vice-versa). After the rebirth of the Indian Christians as Pakistani Christians, being considered a loyal citizen of the Islamic Republic became an imperative of survival. Traces of British or Hindu culture were seen as subversive. Choices were made by families and groups of families, leading to more diversity in cultural practices after partition.

Despite their best efforts, Christians in Pakistan were viewed with a faint whiff of suspicion as a residue of colonialism whose loyalties lay elsewhere. This suspicion formed the moral justification for multi-level and multi-purpose discrimination.

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The general feeling among Pakistani Christians was that their efforts at giving to Caesar were lost in a bottomless pit. With the concepts of jus soli and jus sanguin non-existant, they were, in de facto terms, illegal aliens in their ancestral homeland.  They felt they would be better off in a place where they could succeed through merit without having to look over their shoulders.

That “place” was the West, the Mecca of Pakistanis of all faiths. Many Christians came to Europe by first getting work visas for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that provided them with seed money, and then making their way to Europe, an enterprising albeit ironic exit from a lose-lose situation.

In Europe, their identity went unnoticed. Profession of any religion was treated suspiciously, most of all Christianity. Europeans, considered Christians from the former colonies an embarrassment. They were living reminders of a period they were being educated to abhor. And besides, life was busy.

Yacub Masih, General Secretary of the UK Asian Christian Fellowship in his speech to the House of Lords on 4th February 2005 said: “When I came to this country 30 years ago I was very happy thinking that I am going to a Christian country but I was disappointed … people in this country have no interest in faith … They only know about Santa Claus and Cadbury Easter eggs … .”

http://funmozar.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Santa-Claus-02.jpg

Either ways, the Pakistani Christians in Europe quickly lost their romanticism, and then got down to doing what South Asians are jolly good at — working hard, outpacing rivals, and succeeding in the best of their warrior traditions. Denied access to opportunities in their homeland, they found themselves in a society that just let them get on with it. If they wanted to work longer hours, save, and send their children to the schools that offered them a better opportunity, so be it.

Following September 11, and the July 7, 2005 bombings in the UK, the identity of Pakistani Christians, subsumed within Asians of other faiths and agenda, is viewed with as much suspicion as other brown skins.

So that is why, ensconced in their unique mental space, the Pakistani Christian Christmas menu remains largely unchanged. Even a turkey is properly spiced up, pulao or biryani are a must and ladoos and gulab jamuns compete for table space with mince pies or French bûches.

There is, of course, a tree and there are wrapped up gifts but Pakistani Christians wish each other Happiness rather than Merriment!

Punjabi Christmas Story— part II of II

Piaro Masih Blackiya’s 15th Christmas Day

https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/news/Article-images/Pakistan/memorials_in_church_518_x_388.jpg

So by the afternoon of the day before Wada Din, the house looked as pretty as the city Sa’ai’s cakes. There were strings of colored paper flags crisscrossing the courtyard and all the rooms, with buntings and tinsel stars. The courtyard of the house was red with powdered bricks, their dust kept down by sprinkling water over them every day. Be-ji had bullied the Mussalies into making her a big wooden cross, decorated with the boughs and flowers we’d brought from the dak bangla. She hung it in the baithak, which was really done up. The steps led down to a dusty patch of ground, exactly the same size as the verandah. We cordoned it off with half-buried bricks at an angle, painted white, and spread the patch with red brick powder. At the entrance we made an arch of reeds, covering it with crepe paper, and on top of it was a big WELCOME sign in English.

The sight of all this hit you in the gut, low and hard.

And we were prosperous enough to hire the catering services of a barber. Apart from haircuts, manicures and arranging marriages, they are also hereditary caterers. By the evening, Be-ji, and the village barber’s wife and niece had finished making large para’at dishes of kheer rice pudding, semolina halwa and vermicelli savvayyan which would be dished out to guests and people less fortunate than us who came to wish Wada Din Mubarak. The packets of fruit and sweets wrapped up in colored tissue paper and tied with gold and silver gota ribbons were for selected neighbors and friends.

Be-ji was just starting the night before Wada Din dinner when Baba’s guests started arriving. They were all male, king, and booze would be served. Women hardly visited Be-ji, except for relatives, and as a decent, God-fearing Gujjarie, she wouldn’t just go out by herself to get our noses rubbed in the dust. Most of the time, we were too busy ensuring the honor of the family to take her out, except to her brother’s every few months.

We had hangovers next morning, but we all hugged and wished each other Wada Din Mubarak. Be-ji warmed up water for bucket baths, and after that gave us sour lassi buttermilk, which straightened out our heads. She kissed our foreheads, which gave me, and I suppose Ma’an too, that warm feeling inside of us which is something that makes my heart ache and my liver cool when I think about it now, king. Breakfast was roasted eggs the city folk call an amlaete or something, and parathas, which are rotis kneaded in ghee, rolled out, then folded in layers with ghee between each layer, and fried on a tawa griddle. We drank hot milk with honey. After breakfast Be-ji brought out the presents she had hidden from us.

Soft white Kashmiri pashminas. We thanked her and she went back to dress up for church, and Baba took us into the trunk room, lined with its enormous paetis. Each paeti could take up to five cotton filled quilts and mattresses.

Baba unlocked one of the paetis with a flourish.

“What is it, Baba-ji?” Ma’an and I said together.

“Shut up, pimps. It’s something I’ve kept for you for some time.”

He dug his hand beneath the quilts in the paeti and when he brought it out, Ma’an and me stopped breathing. Two brand new nine millimeter Stenguns. Baba looked at us and smiled.

http://www.guns.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/sten-gun111.jpg; https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9Gc

“You’re old enough to give up your hockey sticks now.”

And that we were. We were also ready for black trips across, like Zafar and Ashraf, Ashiq Blackia’s boys. But Baba was scared of Be-ji, and had put it off. Maybe now? In fact, kids are the best carriers. Stuff a couple of dozen Reiko watches in a bale of grass, and put it on the kid’s head. He walks across the border into India in broad daylight, scythe in hand, and no border guard asks questions. It’s obvious he’s just a grass cutter out to get feed for the family buffalo. He does the same on the way back, only this time he’s got cardamoms or saffron stuffed in the grass.

Baba shut the lid of the trunk.

“Come on. These are yours, but we’ll keep them in the trunk for now. Time to get dressed for church.”

Fifteen minutes later, we were all ready. Be-ji was wearing a brocade shalwar and kurta, with a design of big flowers, just like Malika Elizabeth. She had a white pashmina shawl embroidered with silver thread over her white mohair jersey. The shawl covered her head. She looked such a saint I wondered how she gave birth to a couple of vusaigs like us. I still do.

Baba was in his long vicuna achkan coat, white shalwar, and gold embroidered turban rest around which he had wound his starched, flaring white muslin turban. On his feet were black patent leather pumps. Ma’an and me were in brand new, gold embroidered curly toed khusa shoes, white shalwar trousers, bosky silk kurtas and identical green sweaters. The white blankets were thrown over one shoulder.

http://i.dawn.com/2012/08/7-sukh-chane-trees-qamar-mehdi-670.jpg; http://irissansfrontieres.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/benares-tonga.jpg

Near the sukh chaen tree, the gray was hitched to the tonga, our two wheeled chariot, which would take us to church. Mansha and Boota held the reins in their brand new Christmas clothes. They had to be worn without the initial washing so everybody could see they were new. Both Mussalies smiled, touched their foreheads with their palms and said ‘Wada Din Mubarak’.

“Khair Mubarak,” we replied.

I noted that Be-ji had given them exactly the same white pashminas. They were our men and we looked after them like our own.

Baba gave them fifty rupees each and took the reins. The Mussalies would stay home to keep an eye on things. Besides, they were Muslim, and what would they do in church anyway, saint?

The horse trotted at a good clip, the tonga comfortable, with almost new springs. The barley, wheat and sugarcane crops in the fields around us had a light dusting of frost. The sunrays had started softening the frost, and it was like dew in the daytime. If it all stayed that way, we’d have a good crop in spring. And after the harvest we’d beat the t’tholak and dance the p’hangra.

Outside the church all the local Christians were gathered in their new clothes. They were little people, sweepers mostly, but also carpet weavers or brick kiln workers, when they were lucky. Otherwise they had to empty out people’s chamber pots – but we were all called Sa’ai Chuhras behind our back, anyway. Like Mansha and Boota, they hadn’t washed their coarse cotton clothes so’s not to lose the newness. A dozen beggars were squatting on the ground, begging for alms in the name of Yesu Masih. No self respecting Muslim would refer to Yesu Masih by any name other than Hazrat Issa, a prophet. Our worship in church made us heretical blasphemers, deserving death. But the beggars outside the churches were hereditary professionals, fakirs by caste, like Inayata Fakir.

There was one beggar who looked frightening.

A little creature, with a very small head, large ears, puffed up cheeks, drooling from the mouth with wild eyes. Behind him was another man with a beard, his brother or father. The little freak came towards me with his hand raised, shrieking like a demon. I prepared to defend myself but Baba gripped my shoulder hard.

“No, he’s trying to bless you. Give him some money. He’s one of Shah Daula’s chuwas.”

My hackles rose as the creature swatted my head with shrieks and shoved a kashkole bowl under my nose. I fished for some money, and put in ten rupees. The creature’s relative smiled, and raised blessings to my name.

“Blessings, O’ blessings in the name of the great saint Shah Daula of Gujrat, shagird disciple of Shah Massat the small headed one. May your line never lack offspring, and your wife always be fruitful.”

We passed by into the churchyard, many of the Sa’ais smiling at the blessing.

Padre Amrit Masih had a frown on his face when he met us.

“How cruel. In the name of the saint Shah Daula who lived three hundred years ago, good Muslims donate a child to his shrine believing that the mother will conceive again. The guardians of the shrine lock a steel cap on the child’s head. The child grows up a dithering idiot, a chuwa or rat of Shah Daula.”

“I’d heard of them, but never seen one, Padre Sahib,” I said. “Why do they do that?”

“So the Chuwa can shriek blessings, drool over people, and collect alms.”

“Do they earn much, Padre Sahib-ji?” Be-ji asked.

“More than a Police Deputy Superindent,” Padre Amrit Masih said.

I felt disgusted, and looked straight at Baba.

“Let’s free him, Baba-ji.”

Baba and the Padre shook their heads slowly.

“No, puttar,” Baba said sorrowfully. “We can do nothing about this practice. Two kicks up his ass, and the chuwa’s guardian would run off. Then what do we do with the chuwa? A crowd of Muslims would attack our dera, the church and the basti, and burn them to the ground. We’d be put in prison for kidnapping and hung on a fake murder or blasphemy charge. The Muslims will sort out this problem one day. But we don’t want to burn in their bonfire before that.”

There was still time before service, so we stood in the churchyard gossiping, embracing, and wishing each other Wada Din Mubarak. Some of the poor folk came up and touched Baba’s knees. He was their protector and hero. I felt funny, and sad, that somebody would have to do that.

Baba had a stack of loose, five rupee notes, and when he gave them to one of these little guys, I felt sort of strange. We were just five acre zimeendars who’d become a little better than others due to Baba’s black, but we were all the other Christians had to look up to. Some of the young guys were hoping for careers like Baba, and they came to pay their respects, hoping for patronage at some time in the future.

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For Be-ji, church in itself was a big event. She was with the women folk she knew, who were making admiring sounds at all her fine clothes and jewellery.

Some of the enterprising Sa’ais had put up stalls outside the church. Part of the money would go to the church, and Padre Amrit Masih would be pleased.

Our church was simple, with no benches. The floor was of beaten earth. It used to be covered by rush mats, till after one of Baba’s big deals he bought durrie rugs for the church. The inside was all decorated for Christmas with wreaths and banners in Urdu and English. There were little clay fire pots burning coal placed within the aisles. Padre Amrit Masih gave a good sermon, and it was all about the birth of our Lord. Near the altar there was a guy with a t’holki drum and another with a harmonium, and we sang the Christmas songs to music. It was good.

Church being over, we went back home to receive people who’d come to pay their respects and exchange wishes with us. It was also the day they could ask Baba for all sorts of favors, and he had to grant them.

When we reached the dera, Baba again spread his fivers among the waiting tenants, and Be-ji supervised the distribution of the packets of fruit, sweets and nuts to our village friends.

Unlike us, the poor Sa’ais would get drunk on kikar desi with alum added to it for an extra kick. Others, even poorer, would just cook their bit of meat in the p’hang booti from which marijuana is made. At least for one day in the year, these guys would forget they were Sa’ai Chuhras.

In the evening, Wilayat came to tie up the Bank caper. I was reluctant, but Baba shrugged.

“Since he knows about it, we might as well take him along. It would be dangerous otherwise. And anyway, if he wants a name, let him try, though he won’t go far. He doesn’t have the star that brings God’s Grace.”

Punjabi Christmas Story— part I of II

Piaro Masih Blackiya’s 15th Christmas Eve

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Two weeks before the Wada Din, Jesus’ birthday, our simple brick house was spick and span. Ma’an and me were supposed to do two things – decorate the house and make special Christmas desi. Not from just gur and kikar bark.

No, Sahib-ji.

This desi that I still make on occasion beats the best wilayati, whether it’s Black Dog or some disgraceful angrezi animal of another color. Ma’an and me had put a big manji bed in the courtyard, in the corner that got the sun all day. We spread a cotton sheet on the ground and piled it with oranges.

“The knives?” Ma’an said.

“I’ll go and get them.”

I ran into the kitchen and came back with two knives.

In about half an hour, we had half filled the large, five-gallon clay matka with oranges in their skins sliced in half.

“Sugar, Ma’an,” I said, and he scooped up a cup and handed it to me, pure, mill made, white sugar.

“More,” and he continued handing it to me, till I had the right mixture – five seers of oranges to two and a half seers of sugar. Then I mixed whole spices – cloves, dried mint, coriander seeds, rose hips, cardamoms, cinnamon, pepper, and aniseed and added them for fragrance. To give it the added Wada Din kick, I poured in a few ounces of khas extract. Then we sealed the lid of the matka with freshly kneaded dough. We carried it carefully half an acre away from the house, where we had the compost heap and buried it securely, ready to gag by the end of it, but we made it!

A week before Wada Din Baba had brought in a load of the food specialties. Mostly expensive dry fruit, but a lot of fresh fruit and sweets and cakes. There were no dukhies in the baithak, and none were expected, but there would be important guests on the night before Wada Din. Other guests would drop in after the Wada Din church service. That was one day when Baba always attended Church.

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It was the night before Wada Din. We were simple village folk, different from the city Christians who get a tree and spend a lot of money decorating it. We hung up crepe paper flags and tinsel decorations, made wreaths and crosses, got drunk, ate meat, and fought each other. Come morning, we’d work out the hangovers with sour lassi buttermilk. In those days, the government walas weren’t that bad, at least not during Wada Din celebrations. Those of us who weren’t blackias, just poor cultivators, or sharecroppers, weren’t stopped from burying a pa’anda pot or two, and if they got drunk and only fought among themselves and the injuries were just minor, the pulsias ignored it. But all that’s a long time back. Now there’s something dark, and dreary, and the whole land is being wasted by bigotry, with the joy in peoples’ veins just shriveling with fear.

It was late afternoon the day before Wada Din eve when I heard a bicycle tinkling its bell outside the dera wall. It was Padre Amrit Masih announcing his arrival.

I opened the door. The Padre was standing with a smile, bicycle propped up against the sukh chaen tree.

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“Sala’am Aleikum, Padre Sahib,” I said.

“Sala’am, Piaro puttar,” he replied with his hand over my head.

I took his bicycle, as was proper, raised it over the threshold and took it into the courtyard.

Be-ji came out of the kitchen, head covered, rubbing her hands, a shy smile on her face.

“Welcome, Padre Sahib-ji,” she said.

“Sala’am, mother of Piaro,” and the Padre put his hand over her head. Ma’an was behind Be-ji, and received the same blessing. Baba was out in the fields, and Ma’an ran off to get him.

“Take the Padre Sahib to the baithak, Piaro,” Be-ji said. “I’ll send halva and tea, Padre Sahib.”

Haw hai, you don’t have to do that, I just ate something before coming,” the Padre said. He had the right manners.

“For the joy of our hearts,” Be-ji said.

We were just outside the door to the baithak when Baba got back, with Ma’an behind him. The Padre Sahib and Baba embraced, and Baba seated him in the center of the room, on the divan. I fluffed a bolster pillow behind him, and he looked pleased. Ma’an went out, probably to get the tea and halva as the Mussalies had left for the Padre’s home with the annual Christmas gifts of rice and grain. I sat down to listen.

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“So what’s the talk, Padre Sahib?” Baba asked.

Padre Amrit Masih sighed.

“Some good, some bad. We’re going through hard times.”

“I heard of Choudhry Fazal Dad’s boy in T’hoke Sayyadan.”

So had I. It was Fazal Karim, the Sa’ai-hater from school, years ago.

“They say he actually did it. Isn’t that a little young?”

“Padre Sahib, kids who live in the country see stud animals at work.”

“Yes, that’s true. But to force a girl who only comes to clean the house and the latrines.”

“It’s been going on for centuries, Padre Sahib, and you know it. The untouchables may be touched for pleasure. For the rest of the time they may drown in their misery.”

Ma’an came in with a tray, covered by a cloth. He put it down on the table, and I got up to help him with the service.

“What formality! I’m just the village Padre.”

“A man of God who brings blessings to this humble dwelling – and put a few more nuts and raisins on Padre Sahib’s halva, Piaraya!”

“Yes, Baba-ji!”

The halva was as rich as a visiting Padre’s should be, with k’haeo all around the edges of the dish. I didn’t just pick out more nuts and raisins, I also scooped up extra k’haeo and poured it over the Padre’s plate.

He sighed with pleasure when he saw it.

“May you live long, Piaro,” and I was pleased to get his blessing. Baba smiled. The Padre put a spoonful of the halva in his mouth, chewed, and then gave a big smile.

“Excellent, and generous, as always.”

He was right.

We all enjoyed the first spoonfuls in silence, and then Ma’an served the tea

“I visited the girl’s family. The tragedy has shattered them, and they fear for their lives as well.”

“I went personally to see them,” Baba said quietly.

The Padre raised his eyebrows.

“Last night, at about two in the morning.”

So that’s where he’d gone. The sounds I’d heard hadn’t been a dream

“And?” Padre Amrit Masih heaped another spoonful of halva into his mouth. There was a ring of k’haeo around his lips.

“I swore them to silence. Gave them two thousand rupees and a revolver with fifty rounds.”

“But that’ll only get them killed as well!”

“No Padre Sahib, it’s only for self defense. Within the next four weeks, guides will come to take them away.”

“Where will they go?”

“Across, to India. There’s a Mission School in Jandiala Guru.”

“What’ll they do there?”

“Live as respectable untouchables. They’ll sweep floors and empty out shitpots without the fear of having their daughter raped, then murdered so she couldn’t be a witness.”

“Why did they commit such barbarism?”

Baba hesitated.

“The boys are old enough to hear this. She was violated every day by Fazal and his father. When she became pregnant, they wanted her to get rid of the baby. She refused, and they got rid of her. Strangled her, then hacked her to pieces with a toka, threw the bits of her body in a field, and ploughed it over. Then spread rumors that she’d run away from home to be a prostitute in Lyallpur.”

I felt like throwing up.

“Since the Munawwara Sultana murder in Gujrat, it’s becoming a habit,” the Padre commented. “I’m very pleased you’ve taken care of the affair, and discreetly. You must watch your step. There are many eyes on you, much jealousy. May the Grace of Lord Jesus Christ always protect you.”

“I walk in silence, and try not to belch too loudly.”

The Padre nodded his head.

“I heard in the Bishop Sahib’s office that the higher councils of the Ulema are lobbying for a strict blasphemy law. Then they won’t have to kill and become fugitives. Two witnesses against a Christian will get his neck stretched.”

“Fazal Karim’s disappeared, Baba-ji,” Ma’an said.

“Ma’an and I should have ripped his balls off at school, castrated him,” I said.

“Piaraya!” Baba’s voice was hard.

“Sorry, Padre Sahib-ji,” I said for blaspheming in a holy man’s presence.

“God has already forgiven you. Where d’you think Fazal is, Rehma?”

“Like every other fugitive, in the mountains of the Afghanistan frontier. He was getting quite religious. He’s in a Madrassa school, getting ready for a future jihad!”

“And the Maulvis accepted him after his heinous crime?”

“He demanded succor. By tradition, they have to grant it. He is obviously doing penance for his crime under the strict supervision of the Maulvis. He will obtain their forgiveness by diligence, and then join a Jihad. One day he will come back, and settle scores with us.”

And I’ll stuff his balls in his mouth, I said to myself.

Padre Amrit Masih talked a little while more, mainly about crops and the weather. When he was leaving, Baba said. “The Christmas gifts should have already been delivered.”

“I have no doubt. I shall keep a little and distribute the rest among the needy.”

The Padre left after saying a prayer and blessing the household.

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 “Don’t be scared, go straight in through the gate, and ask for Issa Khan, the Chowkidar of the dak bangla. Tell him who you are, and ask if you can take a few flowers for Christmas. And – “ he added as we turned to go, “It’s still light, but take your kirpans and a hockey stick.” We weren’t old enough for firearms, and like a lot of Punjabis, carried hockey sticks – a great fighting weapon, and one the pulsias can’t nab you on!

Silence of the lambs in Sidney Siege Rescue

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Man Haron Monis, a renegade Muslim cleric single-handedly took a café full of patrons hostage at gunpoint in Sydney on December 14, 2014. Sixteen hours later, he was killed in a tragically successful police or Royal Australian Army rescue bid.

The tragedy is in the number of victims.

To take down a single, inexperienced terrorist, two dead hostages and four wounded including a police officer strikes a very odd note considering the level of anti-terrorist training and international cross-training since 2001.

Across the world, in countries far apart in time, space and state of development, there have been hostage situations involving highly trained, experienced and determined terrorists, outclassing Mosin, a single, auto-didactic terrorist of opportunity.

Yet, in relation to the number of hostages and battle-hardened terrorists, there was either no or minimal loss of life in the rescue operations. There have been no reports of rescuers shooting at each other, as would appear to be the case in Sydney, where one police officer reportedly received shotgun pellets in his face although Mosin is not known to have been armed with a shotgun.

It is also not clear whether Mosin killed the hostages or whether they were shot in a crossfire.

According to The Australian newspaper New South Wales state police commissioner Andrew Scipione “wouldn’t say whether two hostages who were killed – a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman – were caught in crossfire, or shot by the gunman. Among the four wounded was a police officer.”

According to the BBC, the officer reportedly received shotgun pellets in the face and “Local media reports suggest the commandos from the Royal Australian Regiment entered the building after the gunman started firing shots.” These commandos are known to train with the famed British SAS and reckoned pretty good. So they were probably shackled by conflicting civilian decisions emanating from politicians who wanted the police cloned on to their possible success. Or at least, for their sakes, that is what one hopes …

Going in mob-handed led two families into mourning, four others into distress and careers to teeter on a razor’s edge.

Clarification will have to await a highly challenged PR team’s career-salvaging spin.

In the meantime, the most important lesson to be learned here is that of contingency planning and coordination.

Small scale, high intensity operations, in which the lives of innocent civilians hang in the balance are not an arena for inter-service rivalry, hasty planning, testing ground for mediocre training or pride. One, some or all of these appear to have tarnished what could have been an exemplary operation serving as a stellar message to would-be terrorists.

Scrambling for calm, the Australians have also reassured the public that this was the act of a lone gunman.

Perhaps.

Going by the results of the rescue operation, this statement— as hasty as the planning for the rescue bid— might boomerang to haunt the Australian government.

To cut a long story short, this business is a game of tactical chess into which the Australians have never had to sink their teeth except as auxiliaries for American policy. They would do well to train with politically neutral forces such as the British SAS or French Foreign Legion.

Crying victory at this stage would be pre and immature.

Senate Report on the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques— lose-lose for the USA

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Torture is abhorrent — Azam Gill

Change of Guard at the CIA in the offing

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A serious change of guard at the CIA is in the offing, stentoriously led by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence since 2009. Heads will roll on the issue of the CIA’s post 9/11 use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) to pave the way for new heads to await their own turn.

Torture as the instrument of a democratic, civilized society in the pursuit of its goals deserves to be investigated and condemned in such a way as to ensure against its recurrence.  Since the apple reportedly fell on Newton’s head, attention has been focused on the natural law of gravity retrieved from the incident. To date, this law having stood unchallenged, it should be applied with rigor in the current media spectacle over the American CIA’s EITs. Blame-shifting torture on the next lower echelon is only an enhanced version of ‘secretarial errors’, hiding behind which cowardly managers have historically pushed their subordinates over cliffs to cry victory and step up the career ladder.

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Since the dawn of civilization, countries have had to rely on a smattering of rough men and women chosen to soil their hands so that others can keep theirs clean and wax eloquent, perched on high moral ground in warm living rooms without a thought for the price of this moral comfort.

These bruisers flit in the shadows cast by moral standards raised aloft by those who have never had to make such ethical choices. As long as such operators do not employ their dark arts for personal gain, they are considered loyal servants of the state. Their place in the gloom is secured by their employers. The contract is not a one-way street.

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That, of course, does not mean they can torture people at will.

These employees are subject to a code of conduct. If breached, they are punished.

That’s the what, but demons dance gleefully in the how.

The punishments, which might consist of a variety of administrative measures proportionate to the crime, are administered in camera. Since in this case the over-zealous operators failed to obtain the desired result, they may also be charged with professional incompetence. In camera.

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Making a public spectacle for moral ascendancy on the afternoon before a presidential election should raise more eyebrows than this writer’s. In the short-term, it might appease an avid public’s vicarious need to wash it’s morally dirty linen in public, feel good and then bite into a twinkie.

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In the long run, this public confession-fest will insufficiently balance out the collateral damage from Mr Obama’s drones.

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Instigating public indignation for political gain on one issue opens the door for opponents to enter the fray.

With the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism taking a supervisory look at the CIA, that’s what’s called a lose-lose situation.

The Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT)

From Saga Indicus: History of the Jatts and the Gill Clan, appendix 8:  References and citations here http://www.amazon.com/Saga-Indicus-History-Jatts-Gill/dp/1511909374. 

History’s non-event

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The Aryan Invasion Theory — hereinafter referred to as the AIT — is no longer considered tenable by scholars of Indo-European studies. Inexplicably, the theory grips the imagination of its lay proponents who appear to have no desire to revise their perception. The motivational impulse behind this fascination is beyond the scope of this writing and the competence of this writer.

The most thorough examination of and definitive challenge to the AIT leading to its retirement came from In Search of the Cradle of Civilization by Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak & David Frawley, in 1995, further reprinted in 2008. The work deals with the AIT so comprehensively that a layperson like this writer could easily end up plagiarizing it! Most of the references used in the succeeding paragraphs are taken from In Search of the Cradle of Civilization which a compendium of other works cited by the author. In addition, I owe Dr Kak a debt of gratitude for sending me further research material on the Indus-Saraswati script, Vedic science, Akhenaton, Surya and the Rgveda and the Worlds of Commonsense and Science.

This writer has no pretensions of being a scholar of Indo-European studies, but seeks only to offer a summary of available evidence in order to facilitate the lay reader in navigating a clogged road.

 After deconstructing the fundamental components of the AIT it will be possible to see how each constituent measures up to the reality of the evidence against it, and then conclude the subject.

According to the AIT as is commonly believed by lay persons, around 1500 BC a people known as Aryans thundered through the Khyber Pass on horseback and in chariots, destroying the civilization built by India’s dark-skinned inhabitants. Some of the natives were pushed south, and those remaining were subjugated to be the untouchable Dalits of today. Accompanying the ferocity of the conquering Aryans was the refined Sanskrit language and the Vedas in their oral form which were then written in India. These people were light-haired, light-skinned and light-eyed. Their descendants are rarely so since they mixed with the local dark-skinned population.

In other words, the AIT can be broken down as follows.

WHO the invaders were: the Aryans.

WHAT their social structure was: nomadic

WHAT they looked like: light-haired, light-skinned and light-eyed.

WHERE they were from: the Caucuses.

WHAT language they spoke: Sanskrit.

WHO they conquered: the small statured, dark-skinned Dravidians.

WHEN this invasion occurred: around 1500 BC.

WHICH assets they brought to India:

  1. the Sanskrit language,
  2. the Vedas,
  3. horses,
  4. and chariots.

The following paragraphs challenge the Who, What, Where, When and Which of the Aryan Invasion Theory.

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WHO the invaders were: the Aryans, according to the AIT.

The word Aryan does not represent race but noble and cultured behaviour. The area between the Himalayas and Vindhya mountains — a range in the west-central Indian subcontinent — was the homeland of people whose behavior merited the attribute of Arya. People described as Arya / Aryan were native to India.

“… originally the Sanskrit word Arya did not refer to a particular race or language but to a moral quality or mental disposition — that of nobility — resulting in a feeling of kinship with one another. Manu, the mythical progenitor of humankind in the present world cycle, is said in the Vedic texts to have given the area between the Himalayas and the Vindhya Mountains the name arya-varta, meaning ‘abode of the noble folk’”.

The Sanskrit-English Dictionary explains Arya as a polysemous word signifying a wide spectrum of anything but an ethnic classification. Some of the relevant meanings of Arya given in this Dictionary are: kind, favourable, attached to, true, devoted, dear, excellent, a master, lord f. a woman of the third caste, the wife of a Vaisya (third caste) f. the wife of any particular Vaisya.

Feurstein, Kak & Frawley also direct attention ona striking racial continuity” between the skeletons discovered in Harappa (3000 BC) “belonging to members of various racial groups — all of which are still present in India today”, adding that “ the Indus valley (had) cosmopolitan centers in which different ethnic groups lived together relatively peacefully or came together for commerce”.

   

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The first fault line in the Aryan Invasion Theory is that Aryans are not a race but a grouping of different races with behavior and sacred rites common and native to India centuries before 1500 BC. So there were no Aryan invaders.

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WHAT their social structure was: The Aryans were nomads, according to the AIT.

One of the keystones of the Aryan Invasion theory requires them to be nomads. The oldest and surest written record of the Aryans is provided by the Vedas, in which they are described and designated as town dwellers.  The Vedas were composed well before 3000 BC, and describe the human archetype as living in a town rather than a garden. When the Athara-Veda further uses this description as a metaphor for the human body with its “nine orifices” as gates from the outside world to the body as a temple, it presupposes the presence of a simile.  This comaprison would not have been understood unless the readers had first-hand knowledge of urban life to refer to, a prerequisite to its blossoming into metaphor.

The Vedic model of the original human being did not live in a forest or grarden, but in a settled environment.

“… the macrocosmic archetype of the human being is called purusha in the Rig-Veda (X.90; X.130) and later literature.  For the word pur means “town” and usha can be derived from the verbal root vas, meaning ‘to dwell’ or ‘to exist’ or ‘he who dwells in the town.’ Town-dwelling is thus deemed a primary characteristic of humankind which supports the evidence  for the Aryans’ civilized way of life depicted in the Rig-Veda.” Furthermore, “… the word pur is derived from the verbal root pri, meaning “to be full … a dweller in fullness … both the plenitude of the world at large (which is a creation of the cosmic man by an act of self-sacrifice) and also the plenty of earthly towns”.

WHAT they looked like: light-haired, light-skinned and light-eyed, according to the AIT.

Archaeological artifacts to prove that Aryans were light-haired, light-skinned and light-eyed foreigners are significant by their absence. There is also a marked void of compensatory linguistic substantiation.

To reiterate, Aryan is not a race but the ethnically heterogeneous group occupying the arya-varta space in India. Their language was Sanskrit, a descendent of Brahmi, itself descended from Proto Indo-European (PIO). The most popular hypothesis for the origin of Proto Indo European is that of Robert Renfrew, who locates it in eastern Anatolia around 5000 BC. Spatially, that is Asia peopled by Mediterranean types, broadly similar in appearance to the Indians of today and far from being light-haired, light-skinned and light-eyed.

“ Small migrations of Indo-European-speaking groups as well as other peoples may well have occurred in Harappan times, as they have throughout India’s history, but when they arrived in India, they encountered a society that had a prominent, if not dominant, Indo-European contingent — the Sanskrit-speaking Vedic peoples … The Mediterranean race, such as most of the people in India today belong to, including the so-called Aryans and Dravidians, appears to have been the majority group”.

Furthermore, “The frequency analysis of the most common Brahmi and Indus signs confirms the hypothesis that the two scripts are related. The case-ending evidence suggests that the language of the inscriptions is Indo-Aryan”, a suggestion that has remained unchallenged.

Seven years later, Feurstein, Kak & Frawley concluded that “… statistical analysis of the Harappan script strongly suggests that the language imprinted on the numerous soapstone seals was Indo-European rather than Dravidian”.

As such, the hypothetical Proto Indo-European language suspected of lurking somewhere west of India might just turn out to be the Indus Saraswati script, indigenous to India. Until this script is completely decoded, the case rests, pending “full decipherment of the Indus texts”.

The AIT Model– http://www.comtourist.com/images/large/azerbaijan-11/caucasus-map-01.jpg

WHERE the nomads were from: the Caucuses, according to the AIT.

This aspect needs to be examined through language, time and space: that is, the language of these people, since when they spoke it and where. These people who are argued to have invaded India around 1500 BC are said to have spoken Sanskrit and thus introduced it to India. Yet all the available evidence proves that Sanskrit was not just present in India long before 1500 BC, but so were its progenitors.

The oldest surviving records of the Indo-European people in an Indo-European language — Sanskrit — are contained in the Vedas. The age of the Vedas keeps getting pushed back by scholars, and currently hovers at over the 4500 BC mark. The language of the Vedas is in a Sanskrit so refined that it would have to be the end product of language development, pushing the date of the Vedic compositions even further back.

The stellar constellations referred to in the Vedas endorse this reading.  Indo-European in Eastern Anatolia around 5000 BC can thus be argued as a later development.  Insofar as Sanskrit and its speakers are indivisible, Aryans have been native to India for over seven millennia. “ …the Vedas refer to astronomical configurations that could only have occurred in the period from 2000 BC to 6000 BC”.

“Mallory, for instance, places the people who spoke Proto-Indo-European in the area(eastern Anatolia) from 4500 BC to 2500 BC. Thereafter their language became fragmented into dialects (known as the various Indo-European languages)”.

Furthermore,  “The descendants of the Aryans — the Hindus — have no memory whatsoever of having invaded India! There is no record of such an invasion in the ancient scriptures of the Hindus, nor in those of non-Vedic religions like Jainism and Buddhism. The most archaic document in any Indo-European tongue — the Rig-Veda composed in an early form of Sanskrit — does not look back on a homeland outside India. The geography, climate, flora and fauna recorded in the Rig-Veda match those of northern India. Nor do we have any record of such an invasion in the collective memory of the Dravidian-speaking peoples who supposedly inhabited India before the Aryans arrived”.

AIT’s successsor Model– http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e0/Indus_Valley_Civilization,_Late_Phase_(1900-1300_BCE).png

The size of the Indus Saraswati civilization created by the Aryans in India between 4500 and 1900 BC is “… estimated at around 300,000 square miles … bigger than the state of Texas or the African Republic of Zambia. … early pharaonic Egypt, despite its length of 570 miles, is estimated at having comprised an area of under 13,000 to 15,000 square miles. Sumer … was even smaller. Thus, in the early Indic civilization we are confronting the most populous and geographically expansive culture of the third millennium BC — a generator of ideas and skills”.

There was neither invasion nor conquest, as “… the ancient Indic civilization did not become extinct but simply shifted its center of vitality eastward toward the Ganges. It took, however, thirty or more generations before what has been called a “second urbanization” in the Ganges and Yamuna Valleys took place, starting around 1000 BC”.

WHAT language the nomads spoke: Sanskrit, according to the AIT.

“… words — recorded with such fidelity as those of the Rig-Veda — provide many more clues than any artifacts ever could”.

And rightly so, considering that despite the millennial time span of the Vedas, the available means of communication during this period and the difficulty of contact between temples, the transmitted recitations over vast time and space have upheld the integrity of the text. Neither the distance nor the differences in culture between Punjab, Orissa & Tamil Nadu have made an iota of significant difference in the textual body of the Rig Vedas. In The Age of Kali, William Dalrymple has recorded further confirmation of this phenomenon during his visit to the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

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‘You see, this is a very ancient ceremony,’ he (the priest) continued. ‘over two thousand years old.’

‘I am the sixty-third generation of temple priests in my family,’ said the father (the senior priest), ‘and my son is the sixty-fourth. These traditions about our goddess have been handed down to us from the most ancient times. The same festivals, the same holidays, e celebrated just as they were at that time. Nothing, not one detail,’ he said, ‘has been changed’.

According to the AIT, these nomads spoke Sanskrit and brought it to India in about 1500 BC. However, the linguistic evidence surrounding Sanskrit leads to the conclusion that it was present in India for millennia before the nomads are supposed to have brought it to India. The Vedas were composed centuries before 3000 BC in a highly refined form of Sanskrit within an extremely developed grammatical framework. Furthermore, even a thousand or two thousand years before 1500 BC, the structure of Sanskrit had already attained a level of refinement incompatible with the linguistic under-development of ancient Eurasian nomadic hordes in search of pasture around 1500 BC.

In The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy, Max Müller admits that “If we grant that they (the Vedas) belonged to the second millennium before our era, we are probably on safe ground, though we should not forget that this is a constructive date only, and that such a date does not become positive by repetition.

Renfrew reiterates that “Aryan” or “Indo-European” refers to a language, not a culture.

Language is an instrument of culture, and whereas language and culture may coincide, so may language and race.

The area of northwestern India, which was the heartland of the early Indic civilization, is today known as the Punjab. The Sanskrit equivalent is Panca-ap, meaning “five waters,” referring to the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej, which flow into the Indus. In ancient times, we find no reference to a five-river region. But the texts speak of a seven-river region, which was called Sapta-saindhava or “land belonging to the seven rivers,” of which the largest and most important was the Sarasvati.

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The name Sapta-saindhava is derived from the Sanskrit sapta (“seven”) and sindhu (“stream”), the latter giving rise to the modern words Indus and Sindh. This expression suggests that in Vedic times the Punjab as we know it today did not exist and that the center of the seven-river region was further east on the Saraswati.  According to the Manu-Samhita (II.17-18), the “land of the Brahmins” once lay between the Sarasvati and the Drishadvati.

In the Aryan Invasion mode, the age of written Sanskrit is judged by the employment of speculative modal verbs of obligation measured against known information: i.e. must have, must be, could have, couldn’t have etc.

Sanskrit is a very ancient language, and the hazardous consequences of choosing the correct signifier in multilayered metaphors composed in a densely polysemous language cannot be underestimated. The opportunity of studying it from an early age within its own cultural environment gives Indian Hindu scholars a head start, lending their work a pristine authority in this field. Professor Subhash Kak’s interpretation of the Vedas on the age of written Sanskrit is an eye-opener.

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“Thus, the Vedic poet-seers are often said to fashion or carve their hymns like a craftsman does a chariot.

“This fashioning or carving — the verbal root taksh is used — need not be a poetic metaphor only but could refer to actual writing. It seems that without a script, the Vedic poets would have found it exceedingly difficult to meet the rigorous standards of Sanskrit metric composition.

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Weights found at Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, and other sites have revealed a remarkable accuracy (following) a binary-decimal system: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, up to 12,800 units, one unit weighing approximately 0.85 grams … The Shukla-YAJUR-Veda (XVII.2) mentions the names for numbers from 10 to 1,000,000,000,000. Mathematics involving such large numbers is impossible without some form of written annotation. Incidentally, as C. W. Ceram pointed out long ago in his famous book, Gods, Graves and Scholars, the concept of one million did not become common in the West until the nineteenth century.

“…  writing in Sanskrit is not the late invention it has always considered to be. The AITareya-Aranyaka (V3.3.) which is more than three thousand years old, clearly refers to writing. Several Upanishads describe various aspects of the alphabet. What is more, ancient India produced the most extensive grammatical science the world has known until twentieth-century linguistics, namely Panini, Professor at Takshala (Taxila) University’s Ashtadhyayi. “Noam Chomsky has said that the first generative grammar in the modern sense was Panini’s Sanskrit grammar.”

Although the genius grammarian Panini is thought to have lived around 500 BC, it is unlikely that such a sophisticated tradition could have arisen in the absence of writing, or by a culture that was only newly literate (as the Aryan theory requires) … the great grammarian Panini himself mentions a number of grammatical works prior to his date, showing that the came at a long line of development rather than the beginning. … Also, the Mahabharta epic speaks of lost Vedas apart from the four hymnodies that have survived the vicissitudes of time”.

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The glyphs unearthed from the Saraswati-Indus civilization sites answer the question of where writing in India came from and when. “There is a strong morphological link between the Harappan glyphs, as found on numerous seals, and the later Brahmi script, which subsequently gave rise to the deva-nagri script in which Sanskrit is mostly written today.”

Sanskrit in its spoken and written form is not an import but indigenous to India. However strong the linguistic evidence to discount the AIT might be, it can be further confirmed by examining the interpretation of the archaeological evidence unearthed from the Indus-Saraaswati sites, which “… includes the use of iron and the employment of a script that is intermediate between the Harappan glyphs and the Brahmi alphabet of later India”.

The Vedas reinforce the archaeological evidence concerning the use of iron in India prior to 1500 BC. “… the Sanskrit word ayas, thought to denote ‘iron’, appears to have stood for ‘copper’ or ‘bronze. ’ Earliest evidence for iron in India dates back to before 1500 BC in association with Kashmir and the newly excavated city of Dwaraka and is considered to be an indigenous development … The Vedic language itself is highly sophisticated, and the Vedic pantheon is as complex as that of later India (and) by no means the product of a primitive culture but of a people enjoying the fruits of a mature civilization based on age-old traditions — a civilization that could not have been delivered to India on horseback”.

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WHO they conquered: the small statured, dark-skinned Dravidians, according to the AIT.

Scholars who constructed and propagated the Aryan Invasion model assured their public that prior to the arrival of the light-skinned nomads, India had been populated by small statured, dark-skinned, small or flat nosed inhabitants. The ruins of their civilization were unearthed as the sites of the Indus Valley civilization, now more correctly called the Indus-Saraswati civilization. Their descendants are either the inhabitants of southern India or else the untouchables of northern India and present-day Pakistan.

This theory was based on the conjectural interpretation of the available archaeological evidence and the ability of the scholars to correctly understand and translate the Vedas. Thanks to the scholarly citations of the Vedas, the sacred archival records of the Hindus remain an invariable constituent of the paradigm. However, the interpretation of the references has varied over the course of a century. Vedic Sanskrit is densely polysemous, and the choice of the correct signifiers or overlapping signifiers that construct further intersecting metaphors requires a thorough grounding in Hindu culture obtained from their scriptures, a process that needs to be started early in order to achieve a scholarly standard of thoroughness.  Fortunately, Hindu Vedic scholars, no longer worried about appropriation in an independent and resurgent India, have now come forward to assume their responsibility of correcting the interpretations.

Scholars of the Aryan Invasion model understood the word Das or Dasyu in the Vedas to mean dark-skinned. Dasa or Dasyu refers to character and behavior and not ethnic appearance, just as Arya did. In fact, Dasa or Dasyu is the antonym of Arya. Arya means noble, and Dasa or Dasyu means ignoble. The darkness implicit in Dasa or Dasyu is a metaphor for immoral conduct deemed despicable. In one Vedic hymn the Dasyus are called anasas, which is interpreted as ‘flat-nosed’ by scholars who can only rely on epistemology and etymology to translate. However honourable their effort, it remains constricted. Anasas means noseless, and thus disgraced and / or disgraceful. It is well known that ancient Indians were pioneers of plastic surgery because in cases of adultery the culprit’s nose was cut off, consequently ensuring plastic surgeons against idleness. Thus the meanings of Dasyu and Anasas converge to mean disgraced: Dasyu is the result of observing behaviour,  Anasas is the metaphor for such conduct, albeit based on an actual practice. Dasyus are in fact serpentlike demons in Vedic literature, and on occasions the word may be borrowed to express extreme disapproval through metaphor. Neither Arya, nor Dasyu nor Anasas refers to an ethnic group defined by its physical appearance.

“… the term anasa applies to the serpent race of Vedic mythology, as further designations of the Dasyus as “handless” and “footless” indicate.

“… in some contexts, the name Dasyu is applied to fallen Aryans, who could often be reinstated as Aryans once they purified themselves. The Dasyus are usually described as fallen Kshatriyas, or members of the warrior class, who have become unspiritual, flouting the proper rituals”.

“As the behavior of a group or individual changed, so did the label”.

Although the word Dasyu occurs only once in the entire spectrum of Vedic literature, it became a “cornerstone” of the Aryan Invasion theory.

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WHEN this invasion occurred: around 1500 BC, according to the AIT.

The Indus-Saraswati civilization had been in ruins for at least five centuries before the AIT invasion date of 1500 BC. Built around the Saraswati river basin, the Indus-Saraswati civilization had shifted focus to the Gangetic basin as the mighty river Saraswati dried up due to geographical, geological and climatic factors. There was no incentive for an invasion of the Saraswati basin, had one even been intended.

In Current Science, a peer-reviewed scientific journal established in 1932 and published by the Current Science Association along with the Indian Academy of Sciences, D. S. Mitra and Balram Bhadu write that the “River Saraswati is believed to have flown through the Thar Desert, as reconstructed by several experts based on critical data gathered by them.”

 

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In 1893, C. F. Oldham, a British officer, was riding on horseback along the dry bed of a seasonal river called the Ghaggar, that only flows during the monsoon. He suddenly realized that the size of the river-bed was disproportionately bigger than the Ghaggar in full flow. He reasoned, therefore, that the up to three kilometer wide bed of the Ghaggar occupied the former course of a mighty river. It flows through the Punjab and Haaryana into Rajasthan  following  the path of the Saraswati described in the Vedas.

The BBC article The Miracle River, provides satellite views of the basin of a mighty river running from the Himalayas to the West Coast of India in concordance with the size and location of the Saraswati carried in the Vedas. “The images show that it was 8 km wide in places and that it dried up 4,000 years ago … Over 1000 archaeological sites have been found on the course of this river and they date from 3000 BC.”

This date, of course, further confirms the demise of the AIT.

Michel Danino, the French-born author of The Lost River: On the Trail of the Saraswati, says that “… the lost Sarasvati could only have flowed in the Ghaggar’s bed. In fact, it was a French geographer Vivien de Saint-Martin (1802 – 1897) who reached this conclusion for the first time — in 1855!” Since Monsieur de Saint-Martin’s conclusion did not fit the AIT model, it was shelved.

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“By the 1970s and 1980s … It … became clear that the Sarasvati valley was abandoned between 2000 and 1800 BC because the river had receded. The paradox is that the Sarasvati is related to the Rg Vedic culture dated 1500 BC and peopled by Aryans. If the Sarasvati system no longer existed by then or was only a small stream, how does this correlate with the Rg Vedic description of a ‘mighty river’. The logical conclusion is that the Rg Veda was composed while the Sarasvati was in full flow around 3000-2000 BC.”

The preceding summary of evidence and accruing arguments may be summarized as under.

  1. No invasion of India took place around 1500 BC by light-skinned, light-haired and light-eyed nomads.
  2. No invasion destroyed the Indus-Saraswati civilization: it had declined due to geographical, geological and climatic factors.
  3. The Indus-Saraswati civilization was not created by small statured dark, skinned people who were driven south or subjugated as untouchables in the north.
  4. The Indus-Saraswati civilization was ethnically heterogeneous.
  5. Although largely peaceful, the Indus-Saraswati people did have their periods of internecine warfare.
  6. Over the millennia of its history, migratory tribes to India in search of pasture have been welcomed, adopted and settled in — Jatt Republics called Sanghats being a case in point.
  7. The Sanskrit language in India is not an import.
  8. The Vedas, too, are not an import.
  9. The presence of horses in India does not need to be established by artifacts alone. The hymns in the Rigveda contain description of the Asvamedha, or horse sacrifice, impossible unless horses had been tamed and stabled. The age of the Rig Veda having been made apparent in the preceding paragraphs, the domestication of horses in India can be dated as eraly as +3000 BC.
  10. Nomads did not manufacture chariots, a development of urban settlements.

The preceding paragraphs have dealt with interlocking evidence that shows why the AIT has become an embarrassment for its erstwhile scholarly believers, even if it still grips the lay imagination. Though it might appear to be a case of over-kill, the additional argument of an unbroken connection between the Saraswati civilization and present-day India should help conclude this writing.

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All the evidence points to a striking continuity between the early urban culture of Mehrgarh and the second urbanization witnessed in the fertile valley of the Ganges, which gave rise to the modern Hindu civilization … The modern Indian nation can look back upon the longest continuous cultural history in the world.

The continuity of the Saraswati civilization up until contemporary times, runs neck and neck with the chronological evidence for the Sanskrit language, the composition and writing of the Vedas, and the drying up of the Saraswati river. As the preceding paragraphs clarify, this civilization was and is Indian, having shifted from one riverine basin to the other in response to geographical, geological and climatic factors. Ups and downs notwithstanding, it has continuously flourished within India under the shade of the Sanskrit language and the Vedas.

There is a striking cultural continuity between the archaeological artifacts of the Indus-Saraswati civilization and subsequent Hindu society and culture. This continuity is evident in the religious ideas, arts, crafts, architecture, writing style, and the system of weights and measures.

“It is also interesting to note that the Harappans practiced cremation, as do the later Hindus as a general rule Harappans, like the modern Hindus, probably passed on their sacred objects rather than leave them in graves”.

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The eminent scholar’s last statement explains why there is no plethora of Saraswati artifacts on par with those of ancient Egypt and China retrieved through burial sites. Firstly, from the earliest of times up until now, Hindus have cremated their dead, a practice now followed in the West. As such there are no burial sites to desecrate in the name of science! Sacred objects of a deceased person were passed on to inheritors, and as private property, remain beyond the reach of archaeologists. India’s economic development, literacy, resulting urbanization and consequent increasing social homogeneity will reach a critical stage when youthful urbanites will start looking for their roots in musty attics, emerging with appraisable cobwebbed. Without wAITing for that moment, archaeologists could take the initiative and encourage people to bring their ancient family heirlooms for evaluation.

In view of the vibrancy and refinement of the Saraswati civilization, it is hardly surprising that written records uphold its influence spilling over into the Middle East and even further, in different time periods.

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“…from 1352 to 1336 BC … Mittani records reveal that the kings and a large number of other people had Sanskrit names.  Their language was peppered with Sanskrit, and many of their rituals and customs were similar to those of Vedic Indians”.

Without actually propounding the AIT, some scholars still insist that horses and chariots were brought to India from the west / northwest, even referring to Vedic texts, although without citing them.

Vedic texts tell us that the pastoralist Indo-Aryan nobility fought from chariots, and the commoners on horseback and on foot, with the local people (dasyu) of the small, post-Harappan settlements.

The implicit suggestion is that the Indo-Aryan nobility was pastoral and fought from chariots, as opposed to the commoners on horseback and on foot.

First of all, it defeats logic that the ‘conquering’ nomads would have provided the conquered with horses and surrendered battlefield tactical superiority in order to increase their enemy’s military prowess. since the former are supposed to have introduced them to India! Actually, this reference itself confirms internecine conflict and not an invasion —unless the dasyus already had their mounts, they could not have acquired them from their enemies. If they wrested a sufficient number of horses from their adversaries, they would have been the winners rather than losers.

Secondly, a pastoral people, nomadic herders by definition and frequently mobile, would prefer to be on horseback, unencumbered by the manufacturing and maintenance of chariots and harnessing horses to chariots.

Thirdly, manufacturing chariots is not a nomadic but a settled activity.

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Fourthly, we need to consider that militarily, fighting exclusively from chariots pits speed and power versus agility. In that case, agility wins, as Alexander at the battle of Guagemala and Timoleon at the Crimisus river among others, showed.

The author has made a general reference to “vedic texts” without a citation. Either it is a retrieved remark, or else a mistranslation of the word ratha. If ratha is unthinkingly tanslated as chariot what comes to mind is the two-wheeled Eurasian contraption west of the Hindu Kush, or shades of Ben Hur, and not the four wheeled stable platform driven by Krishna  — Arjuna’s charioteer — in the Kurukshetra war.

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In any case, chariots play an important part in the Vedic texts, with most of the deities of the Hindu pantheon riding in them, notably Ushas (the dawn) and Agni as messenger between the deities and mortals. As seen in the earlier paragraphs of this writing, the latest date for the Vedas is 1900 BC. The scholar either did not take that into account, or allowed the outdated perception of the AIT to seep into the references to the Kurukshutra war.

Prehistoric cave painting, Bhimbhetka,Madhya Pradesh  India— http://image.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/382675/382675,1292540734,1/stock-photo-a-prehistoric-cave-painting-in-bhimbetka-india-a-world-heritage-site-which-shows-men-on-their-67359181.jpg

Furthermore, “… there is evidence for the presence of horses in a number of Harappan and pre-Harappan sites. In addition, recently discovered depictions of horses in Paleolithic caves show that the horse was present in India even before the Indus towns were built”.[i]

In any case, the history of horseback riding is neither definitive nor spatially linear.

There are many controversies regarding the identity of the first people to ride a horse. The Brahmins of India claim to be the first horse riders. According to the history of Chinese culture, they started riding horses as early as 4000 BC and started breeding horses in 1000 BC. Evidences have shown that in eastern Mediterranean, the Assyrians were the first to use horses as beasts of burden.

However, to be fair to this scholar, he does disclaim in the same article that “Nobody today claims that the Indo-Aryan speakers arrived on the scene when the mature Indus Civilisation still was flourishing and destroyed it, it in whatever fashion.

Yet, when in 1958, Arnold  Toynbee warned: “India is a whole world in herself,” the AIT theorists should have paused to ponder and start exploring India’s cultural self-sufficiency.

This contemplation was overshadowed by Germanic identity seekers appropriating the word Aryan for themselves, convinced that it represented a race which could only be their own. They sought to confirm neither the origin nor the meaning of the word. The idea attracted many people in the West. During the period that Max Muller’s writings on Indo-European studies were predominant, most of the non-Western world was ruled by France and Britain. The remnants were governed by Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Germany. Manifest Destiny and the White Man’s Burden overlapped. Many of the ruled felt it was their destiny to be governed by western colonialists. India being the biggest Jewel in the Crown, convincing the Indians of this argument secured the Raj at low cost. The Indian collaborators of the Raj, too, were pleased to be associated with the conquerors and liked to consider themselves descendants of conquering Aryans.

 

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Hitler and his associates went even further, believing that Aryans were white-skinned, light-haired and light-eyed and had originated in Atlantis, a civilization conjectured by Plato from hearsay gleaned from Solon the lawgiver: during the latter’s visit to Egypt he claimed that an Egyptian priest had translated the history of Atlantis recorded on papyri in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Hitler and his comrades merged Aryan and Atlantis in a diabolical drive to cleanse their Fatherland by committing the genocide of around 12 million people considered ‘impure’.

The self-disgust generated within western civilization by Hitler’s genocide ensured against its repetition until the breaking up process of the former Yougoslavia, although elsewhere, from Rwanda to Cambodia to Sudan, genocide continues to rear its ugly head. Despite the excesses committed by one of the most sophisticated western nations in the name of purity, the desire to associate with the mythical Atlantis civilization created by ‘Aryans’ continues to exercise authority on the intellects of lay persons.

An attractive, positive self-image being beneficial, it is retained for a long time even when objective scholarly evidence contradicts it.

Such is the aggregate lesson to be learnt from a study of the AIT.