Category Archives: India

Chola Dynasty I

The legacy of the Cholas, its monumental temples, were discovered by accident when in 1838 an English explorer while hacking his way through the dense jungles of Southern India, Tamil Nadu to be precise, came across what would later be dubbed the erotic temples of India because of the lurid and lucid sculptures, carvings and engravings that adorn the walls of these temples.

The temples were discovered in the same manner that Henri Mouhot discovered the lost temples of Angkor. Henri Mouhot after working in Siam was travelling through Cambodia collecting zoological and botanical samples when while cutting his way through the dense forests of Cambodia he stumbled across the temples of Angkor.

The first question that comes to mind with regards to both these temples is; are these temples in any way connected? I don’t believe that they are and I am certain that we are dealing with two distinct and separate blends of Hinduism. For starters the Cholas are Shaivites and the Angkor temples at a first glance look to be built by Vaishnavites.

The Cholas have left us with many unanswered questions for example who they were or if they were indigenous or otherwise and the discreet and secretive blend of Hinduism that they practiced which gave them the ability to build these mammoth architectural splendors remains a mystery.

The first question is easy enough. The Cholas were indigenous or as indigenous as a people can be but there are two possible points of origin that date back to about 3300 BC.

They are by no means a new people and it’s fair to say that they have been around for sometime but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be around for much longer and by the turn of the century the Cholas or what remains of them or those that carry the Chola genes will no longer be there simply because of migration and mixed-marriages.

Now the Cholas carry the designation thevar behind their names and a bulk of the Chola army though they are known as thevars are kallars. According to a study done by the department of human genetics and anthropology, university of Madras and the anthropology and the human genetics unit of the university of Kolkata, West Bengal India, titled genetic structure of the early immigrants (Mukkalathor) – the term Mukkalathor means the people of the three clans who are collectively known as thevars (kallars, maravars, and agamudaiyars) the kallars may be one of the first tribes to migrate out of north Africa – Southern Europe and places their point of origin in the Sinai Peninsula.

However, we have to keep in mind that most of the early Eurasian migrants to the subcontinent took the route along the Nile across the Sinai Peninsula and went all the way according to some sources to North Australia. Now there is another interesting fact that I am going to point out here.

The kallars, as was the norm with the Cholas, were a fully militarized caste and one of the weapons they used is a valari or a boomerang and it was used by the Chola army. Likewise the indigenous people of Australia also use boomerangs so there are some similarities there.

Assuming that the Cholas were migrants or early migrants and if I was to set a migration date it would be between 3300 BC – 1300 BC or during the time of the Indus Valley Civilization, it started to decline at about 1300 BC, and the most significant factor that led to the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization, as far as I am concerned is migration.

I don’t think the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization was precipitated by war but rather the natural inflow of people or a movement of one group of people from one point to another and sometimes depending on their frailties, the original inhabitants could have succumbed to illnesses.

The original inhabitants of the Indus Valley observed a very strict diet and from all accounts they were mostly ascetics or people deeply stooped in religious practices as were the Cholas as made evident by the hundreds if not thousands of temples that they’d constructed all over South India and these type of strict adherence to religious practices requires an adherence to specific diets and as a result future generations, a few hundred years or so down the track, may not have the ability to withstand or combat various common illnesses.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Partition of Sindh II (Liberation War of Bangladesh 1971)

In 1971 during the Bangladesh war for Independence or the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 Karachi suffered a major setback when it became the target of three Osa (Wasp) class missile boats.

The boats were first offered to a visiting Indian delegation in 1964 but the Indian Navy at that time showed no interest and was keener on purchasing larger boats. The Osa class boats were smaller in size and were built more for speed (the boats can achieve speeds up to 40 knots) rather than capacity. Between 1960 – 1973 the Soviet Union built over 400 Osa class boats to bolster the naval needs of its allies.

In 1968, a similar offer was made to a visiting Pakistani delegation but like its Indian counterparts it turned down the offer, showing a preference instead for larger boats. In 1969 after examining the performance of the boats in the 7 day war and with a third war with Pakistan looming over the horizon, India agreed to take delivery of the Osa class missile boats and the boats were commissioned into the navy a few months prior to the start of the 1971 war.

On the 26th of March 1971, Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared the then East Pakistan an independent state and the new nation was called Bangladesh. In response, the Pakistani army launched a massive crack-down on Bangladeshi citizens that displaced and dislodged millions. Almost 3 million people were killed in the violence that erupted following the declaration of independence and almost 10 million people were forced to cross the border and seek refuge in India. Many sought shelters in hastily constructed refugee camps.

The Pakistani Air Force (PAF) determined to crush the freedom movement launched air raids on suspected Bangladeshi freedom fighter training camps in Bengal and the (PAF) targeted 9 Indian airfields on the western border thereby setting in motion the 3rd Indo-Pakistani war. On the 3rd of December 1971, India and Pakistan formally went to war.

The Pakistani Naval Headquarters (PNHQ) in Karachi was an important factor in the equation and if India were to have any success they needed to neutralize the threat. Prevented from flying over Indian air space the only way Pakistan could refurbish its lines was by sea.

In addition to that, Karachi not only harbored most of the Pakistani naval fleet but it was also where a majority of commercial ships docked and putting it out of commission would temporarily at least, cripple Pakistan’s economy.

The naval war started with a naval blockade on both the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The next step was to put Karachi out of business.

The boats that were chosen for the task were the lethal but short range Osa missile boats. The boats were equipped with P-15 (Termite) (SS-N-2 Styx) anti-ship missiles developed by the Soviet Union’s Raduga Aerospace and AK 230 anti-aircraft 30mm twin guns (Soviet manufactured and radar directed).

3 missile boats were ordered to set sail for Karachi, the INS Nipat (K86), the INS Nirghat (K89) and the INS Veer (K82), escorted by two anti-submarine Arnala class corvettes (Petya III class), INS Kiltan (P79) and INS Katchall (P81) and accompanied by a fleet oiler, INS Poshak. The operation was called Operation Trident.

Because of their limited range the boats were towed towards Karachi and once close enough the boats were set free to make their way towards the harbor. The crews were instructed to speak only in Russian so that even if their communications were by chance intercepted, the enemy wouldn’t be able to make any sense of what was being said.

As the boats inched their way closer to Karachi via the Saurashtra Coast, under the cover of darkness, crew members detected signs of a ship nearby – the PNS Khaibar (destroyer). The INS Nirghat (K89) the closest boat to the Khaibar was ordered to engage.

It fired two missiles at the ship with a gap of three minutes in between and the ship was sunk but not before it had sent out a message saying that it was fired upon by enemy aircraft. The Pakistani war machine had no idea what had hit them and they were caught off-guard.

32 miles off the port of Karachi, the INS Veer (K82) detected another ship, the Pakistani minesweeper the PNS Muhafiz (adjutant class). Veer fired two missiles which resulted in direct hits and the Muhafiz was sunk.

The INS Nipat (K86) continued its journey towards Karachi and once close enough fired an anti-ship missile towards the entrance of the harbor. The missile scored a direct hit and struck a giant oil tank at Kemari (12.5 miles south of the harbor) setting it alight. The flames spread to the adjacent tanks and soon the whole harbor was ablaze. Operation Trident was followed up by operation Python which caused untold damage to the port city.

Copyright © 2018 by Kathiresan Ramachanderam

Partition of Sindh I

The Partition of India on the 15th of August 1947 included some very poignant tales some of which may be systemically erased from public archives or records unless we take stringent measures to ensure that they remain intact so that posterity may remember the cost of freedom.

The Sindh province is bordered by West Punjab to the North, Rajasthan and Gujarat to the East and Baluchistan to the West. Like other provincial areas in the northern sector of the subcontinent it suffered major upheavals and population shifts during and post partition.

The threat of violence, often vocal, triggered a mass exodus and almost a million Sindhis left their ancestral homeland fearing communal riots and fled to India leaving behind most of their wealth and possessions.

Sindh is the second largest province in Pakistan and in terms of wealth density there is a large discrepancy in the province. The wealth is not proportionally distributed and there is a wide gap between the rich and the poor. It is commonly believed that Baluchistan is the most impoverished province in Pakistan but living conditions in some Sindh villages are equally as bad and fall well below acceptable levels.

The situation has been further aggravated by reports of repeated violence – a salient feature in many of the provinces. According to human rights organizations, the most serious breaches include extrajudicial and targeted killings, sudden disappearances and torture. Like Baluchistan there has been a recent spike in Sindh nationalism with calls for the formation of a breakaway republic – Sindhudesh which is backed by an armed militia, the SDLA.

According to the IGC (International Growth Center), political violence has long been endemic in Pakistan, but the scale, scope, and geographic distribution of the problem has not been systematically studied.

The problem is twofold, on the policy side, decision makers lack credible quantitative data with which to weigh the relative costs of politically-motivated violence against the many other challenges facing Pakistan and on the academic side, scholars lack the ability to quantitatively assess the role of violence in Pakistan’s political and economic development.

The Sindh province holds a majority of the seats in the Pakistani National Assembly and it is the most influential province in the Pakistani political sphere.

Therefore, the province is of some significance and while much of the internal turmoil is conveniently blamed on extremists, it is worth examining the internal policing and administrative mechanisms that operate within the province.

The province itself has a large number of migrants from Punjab and Baluchistan, many of whom have come in search of work. Karachi, the capital of the Sindh Province houses one third of the provincial population.

Pakistan presents us with a novel opportunity to study a unique democracy. In May 1999, Pakistani forces crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and launched a bold and belligerent attack which resulted in a high-altitude conflict, focused and centered, in and around the town of Kargil which is located approximately 205 km north-east of Srinagar (the summer capital of Kashmir).

During the conflict the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was quoted as saying that he wasn’t aware of any plans to encroach on Indian territory and while it might sound far-fetched to some, it is both possible and plausible. It may have been what actually transpired.

While the Sindh province controls a majority of the seats in the national assembly, the Punjabis control the military. There is some discrepancy there and there is always the possibility that the military might have acted independently.

Much of the animosity is due to what was left behind and the lamentable loss of a rich and vibrant cultural heritage that was the result or the legacy of a hastily brokered partition especially with regards to Kashmir and Punjab.

The previously independent and autonomous Kashmir was reduced to the brink of social and economic disaster overnight.

According to most sources, the migration of the Sindhi from Pakistan to India and vice-versa was peaceful but that does not mean that there was no violence or that the level of violence that they were subjected to was negligible, acceptable or tolerable.

Other sources say that many of the Sindhis that migrated from India to Pakistan were exposed to very high levels of violence. Therefore, the animosity that still lingers in the air between India and Pakistan is tangible, conceivable and understandable.

There are tales of murder, rape, pillage and of people being set alight by the truckloads or train loads and it is difficult to determine how much of it is true and how much is fabricated but there is no doubting or denying that there was an extremely high level of violence that followed the partition of India and Pakistan.

Copyright © 2018 by Kathiresan Ramachanderam

Vegan

The word vegan is used to denote a person who doesn’t eat meat or consume food that is made from animal extracts (animal based food). Animal based foods include water soluble proteins like gelatin which are obtained from boiling the skin, tendons, ligaments or bones of pigs and cattle.

Vegans have a clear, distinct and decisive preference for vegetarian food and some vegans even abstain from consuming eggs but they do supplement their diet with a range of dairy products made from cattle, goat and buffalo milk. Their vegetable intake includes a wide range of greeneries, many of which are rare and do not satisfy the requirements of the modern palate. Hence these greeneries are uncommon in contemporary culinary circles.

Meat includes fish and fish based products, white meat (poultry meat) and red meat (beef, mutton, lamb, and venison). Pork is regarded as white meat in the United States but outside the United States it is considered or regarded as red meat.

Seaweeds are an essential or a crucial part of the vegan diet and these vegetables are a better source of protein and minerals than fish or fish based products.

Seaweeds absorb a wealth of minerals from seabeds but it is necessary to keep the sea and ocean floors clean because if the seabeds are tainted, say for example with toxins like lead, than the seaweeds that grow in the contaminated area will absorb the lead that has seeped into the tainted seabeds and when the seaweeds are consumed and ingested the toxins may enter the digestive tract.

Therefore, when purchasing seaweed it is advisable to know, roughly at least, where it was harvested. Apart from the concerns that have been outlined here seaweeds are a good source of protein and essential nutrients.

It is also worth mentioning that by switching to alternate sea based proteins we can help stop the depletion of other important marine resources.

Well planned vegan diets provide the body with enough iron, calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals including antioxidants (chemicals that prevent cell damage due to internal and external factors). Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants.

Examples of fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants include prunes, raisins, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes, cherries, kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli flowers, beets, red bell peppers, onions, corn and eggplants (brinjals).

It is also useful at this stage to touch on livestock exports because excessive exporting of meat in certain countries can have adverse effects. The common presumption is that exporting livestock increases foreign revenue and contributes positively to the GDP (the most important measure of economic activity in a country).

However, in certain countries an increase in meat exports especially cattle, goat and buffalo meat has had a reverse effect. In India for example a rush to meet the offshore demand for meat has led to a depletion in stocks and that in turn has contributed to a decrease in milk production which has a negative impact on growing children.

In 2010 India was registered as the 12th largest beef producer in the world and it produced a total of 1,086,500 tons of beef accounting for 1.74% of global production. It was the 2nd largest beef producer in Asia and accounted for 8.12% of total production (FAO).

India has an annual per capita beef and veal consumption of 0.77 kg, which is relatively small as opposed to Argentina which has a per capita beef and veal consumption of 41.02 kg. Both countries are on the extreme ends of the scale and a benchmark figure or a median figure would be between 20 – 21 kg.

India’s meat production is relatively high while domestic demand is modest at best. It has or had sufficient quantities of livestock because its per capita meat consumption falls well below the median, so there isn’t a great demand for meat. Yet it has in the past failed to produce enough milk. The most obvious reason for the discrepancy would be the rush to meet offshore orders.

In order to satisfy the demand for milk India has had to import milk and because either offshore producers couldn’t fulfill the demand or their prices were not competitive enough there were batches of milk that were tainted and mixed with additives, some of which are extremely toxic, like paint.

Therefore it would not be wrong to say that in some countries, because of the prevailing economic conditions, it is easier to try and inculcate a more vegetarian diet.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

The Mautam Famine

The mautam famine is a famine unlike others and it is not caused by changes in the climate or the weather and neither is it the result of war or other acts precipitated by human hands but rather a famine that occurs every 48 years and the sole cause of the famine is a sudden boom in the rat population which leads to crop destruction and brings with it other sicknesses and illnesses related to rats.

Rat infestation is rampant during the famine and it occurs primarily in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, previously a territory of Assam which later in 1972 became a union territory and was recognized as a separate state in 1987 by prime minister Rajiv Gandhi after the Mizo National Front (MNF) leader, Pu Laldenga, met with the prime minister to seek a resolution to the long standing conflict between New Delhi and Mizoram – a conflict which to a large extent was precipitated by the mautam famine of 1959.

One of the demands of the MNF was for Mizoram to be conferred the status of a state to which the prime minister agreed. Observers called it one of Rajiv Gandhi’s best political moves and it guaranteed peace in Mizoram.

In 1959 the mautam famine struck Mizoram and it was the first time it had happened since independence but from all indications it would have happened 48 years prior but very little records of that famine are available because at the time, Mizoram was a territory of Assam or as it was more formally known colonial Assam and it is difficult to say what transpired then. Assam was under British rule from 1826 – 1947.

The word mautam itself means bamboo death, the word mau means bamboo and the word tam means death and the unrest in Mizoram was exacerbated or aggravated by the famine. It was however not the sole or the only cause of the unrest because the Mizos at the same time were pushing for a separate identity that was distinct from Assam.

Tribal conflicts were frequent in the past but somehow the seven sister states have managed to work around that and even if they are not united in ethnicity they appear to be united in faith and the Christian faith has done a lot to foster greater unity among the different tribes.

In 1960 the Mizo Cultural Society which was formed five years earlier, if anything as a pressure group to further Mizo rights, changed its name to the Mautam Front or the Mautam Famine Front and swung into action not only to aid and assist with relief work but to also demand for more supplies to be sent to affected or impacted areas and thereafter remodeled itself to become a political party with some clout, backed if need be by armed combatants.

Following its inception as a proper political party and in the aftermath of the 1959 famine, there were riots and protests in various parts of Mizoram and the conflict dragged on until Mizoram received recognition as a separate state.

The northeastern sector of the subcontinent had been volatile for some time but the softer approach that New Delhi adopted after Rajiv Gandhi’s installation as prime minister appeared to be working and once both parties to the conflict backed away from their hardline stance, long-term peace became a possibility.

They were two very different personalities, Rajiv Gandhi and Pu Laldenga, the former was a member of one of the most politically influential families in the country and Cambridge educated while the latter started his career as a sergeant in the army and was later employed as an accounts clerk by the government of Assam before he went on to be the first Chief Minister of Mizoram.

I have not doubts that both of them wanted what was best for Mizoram and over the years I’ve come to appreciate the softer approach more than the non-compromising attitude that really doesn’t work all that well in the subcontinent, not when there are at least half a dozen paramilitary organizations or more that are willing to take up arms at any time.

I suspect that Laldenga’s military training proved invaluable when the MNF decided to launch a secessionist war, post the 1959 famine.

Mizoram is a predominantly Christian state, some 87% of its population is Christian and the last time the famine struck, many Christian aid agencies extended aid and support to the state.

The famine itself is caused by the flowering of the bamboo plant and the fruits of the bamboo plant send rats into a feeding frenzy.

The rats feed on the fruits and multiply at accelerated rates and that in turn leads to a boom in the rat population which then becomes a threat to not only crops but also to livestock and as a result food production levels in the state plummet and the state is unable to meet its demand for food which in turn leads to famine and other rat related illnesses.

Part of the problem is due to the fact that almost 31% of Mizoram or 6,445 square kilometers of the state is covered with bamboo forests and that aggravates the problem because once the bamboo starts flowering, the rat population spirals out of control.

It is worth looking into the possibility of clearing as much of the bamboo forests as possible, normal slash and burn methods employed by tribal farmers should do the trick and look at replanting the cleared area with crops. That should help alleviate the problem somewhat and at the same time keep the environmentalists at bay.

When the famine strikes many families are reduced to the brink of abject poverty and survive on only one meal a day which leads to severe mal-nutritional problems and sometimes the damage that is done is irreversible.

Copyright © 2017 by Dyarne Ward

Gandhi’s Salt March

In 1882 the British East India Company in an effort to control trade in India passed the Salt Act of 1882 which in effect gave the Company a monopoly over salt and it could only be sold and purchased through the Company and this allowed the Company, depending on prevailing economic factors and conditions, to raise the taxes on salt. Salt is a vital commodity and a commodity that is common in every Indian household and an increase in salt prices would cause undue hardship to the people.

In order to enforce the act a customs line was established that stretched from the north to the south of India comprising of at least 12,000 men with additional attention given to coastal areas to ensure that there was no illegal production of salt. Salt is most commonly produced by allowing salt brines from the sea to evaporate under the sun.

In order to break the monopoly Mahatma Gandhi on the 12th of March 1930 set out from his ashram or religious retreat in the company of a dozen men and they marched in accordance with the principles of non-violence or the doctrine of non-violence that Gandhi strictly observed to the town of Dandi some 240 miles away located on the coast of the Arabian Sea.

Along the way Gandhi addressed groups of people and as he and the men with him continued on their journey, more and more men and women joined him and by the time they reached the town of Dandi, Gandhi’s following of a dozen men had burgeoned to include hundreds if not thousands of men and women.

An accurate cinematic adaptation of the march and the events that transpired is given in the award winning movie Gandhi. Ben Kingsley played the role of Mohandas Gandhi.

Once Gandhi and those that accompanied him reached the town of Dandi they began making salt by harvesting salt brines from the sea and allowing it to evaporate in the sun, in defiance of the 1882 act which infuriated the authorities.

His actions were emulated all across India and soon people were beginning to make salt everywhere and even as they were breaking the law Gandhi continuously kept emphasizing his non violent stance to prevent any unwanted incidents.

He was eventually arrested along with some 60,000 others and was thrown in prison. Gandhi was arrested on the 5th May 1930 but despite his arrest civil disobedience continued throughout India and he was released in January 1931.

Copyright © 2017 by Dyarne Ward

The Indian National Congress (INC) – Founding Members

The Indian National Congress Party or the INC is the oldest political party in India and it was founded by Allan Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji and Sir Dinshaw Edulji Wacha. Allan Hume was an ornithologist, botanist and author of some note and he was the administrator of the city of Etawah located along the banks of the Yamuna River in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

After witnessing the Indian Revolution of 1858 and its aftermath, the revolution was an attempt to wrest control of India away from the British East India Company which administered territories in the subcontinent on behalf of the crown and had a monopoly over trade and commerce, he came to the conclusion that the revolution was a result of mis-governance or poor governance and decided that the people should have some say in how they were being governed and how the wealth of the country was managed or distributed and he decided that India should have a political party of its own. He is regarded as a political reformist with liberal views.

His other two colleagues, Dadabhai Naoroji and Sir Dinshaw Edulji Wacha, were Parsis (people of Persian origin) from Mumbai. The former was a trader by profession and a Liberal Party member of the British House of Commons. He was also an educator, a social leader and he was the first Asian MP to serve in the UK parliament. The latter, Sir Dinshaw Edulji Wacha, was a career politician who was active in the areas of education, social reform and commerce.

The INC was formed as a political party that aspired to gain more autonomy, in terms of self governance for India and the party later went on to spearhead the Indian Independence Movement, which started in South Africa, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi was a civil rights activist in South Africa and he spent almost 21 years there. It was in South Africa that Gandhi formulated his views and doctrines, especially with regards to civil liberties, social reforms and self-governance. He initially went to South Africa to take on a case (the Abdullah case), Mahatma Gandhi was a lawyer by profession, and ended up spending 21 years there. Upon his return to India he joined the Indian National Congress and started the non-violent movement towards independence.

From its rather humble beginnings the Indian National Congress has grown to be largest political party in India and its policies have changed with the passage of time. The party is currently headed by Sonia Gandhi.
Copyright © 2017 by Dyarne Ward