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Editorial Archive 2006

June 29,2006

Dear Kalyanji:

 Witzel's diatribe against Yvette shows how petty and unscholarly he  is. I was present at the Seminar (Dartmouth) where he was too scared to present a paper, so he sent Pyotr to spy for him. When things were not going his way, he decided to drive down. Here is my impression of Michael Witzel


My impressions of Michael Witzel by N.S. Rajaram

While Michael Witzel has been commenting extensively on my work over the past five years and more (and I less so), I ran into him in person for the first time during the Seminar on Aryan / Nonaryan Civilizations organized by the Center for Indic Studies of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth on June 23 – 26, 2006. I was one of the invited speakers, as was Witzel though he chose not to present a paper even while studiously attending nearly all
presentations and participated verbally.

Witzel struck me as an unusual, even bizarre personality. He has no charm, and lacks the elementary grace and assurance that one expects from a person of his seniority and position. He never looks one squarely in the eye when speaking and is not above making cutting personal remarks that border on the indecent even to young people. He struck me as being insecure to the point of having an inferiority complex. This could be due to the unraveling of the theories that he has been advocating for the greater part of his career— something that was all too evident at the Seminar. His reverses following his California textbook campaign seems also to have told on him both physically and mentally.

 His total lack of warmth and personal charm made some of the younger participants refer to him as a "cold fish," but in view of the rapid crumbling of his academic position, it might be better to describe him as a frozen fish fossil. In all these years, I have never come across a person who could so completely 'turn off' anyone coming in contact with him.

 His lack of self confidence was in evidence when he refused to present his views at a time slot provided for him by the organizers.He commented extensively on other people's presentations (including my own), but they were almost always negative, defending old (positions) while trying to cast doubts on new findings even in areas in which he had no competence, like genetics. His observations not infrequently were laced with personal comments, like referring to a speaker's (not mine) 'pseudo-arguments' which he was forced to retract. Such behavior showed him in poor light, reinforcing the view that he was resorting to personal attacks in the absence of any academic arguments.

 The fact that all new findings are going against his cherished theories combined with the lack of hoped for results from his California textbook campaign seems to have told heavily on his self confidence. My remark that theories like the Aryan invasion will disappear along with their experts, and my advice to younger scholars to not waste any time either studying or refuting these, but focus on new findings and find new methodologies based on science and primary records seems to have affected him rather strongly.

Witzel was one of the invited speakers, but had declined the invitations, while sending on of his protégés (Dr. Pyotr Erslov of the Free University of Berlin) to present a paper on the traditional approach to Indian archaeology and literature. I happened to chair that session. Erslov cut a poor figure and the negative responses he received seem to have made him send an SOS to Witzel at Harvard, only about an hour's drive from Dartmouth. Witzel showed up in the afternoon and stayed for the duration of the Seminar

Another story I heard was that the Harvard authorities were unhappy at Witzel's lack of participation at this seminar next door while he had been willing to spend a lot of time lobbying education authorities in far away California.  In addition, he has been under pressure from his superiors for his lack of rapport (to put it mildly) with the Indian community. They also seem to have taken note of a letter I wrote to the Harvard Provost, pointing out the deficiencies
of their program under Witzel's leadership.

 This was confirmed by Witzel himself, when just before leaving he approached me and said that my conduct (writing to Harvard) "was reprehensible" and "libelous." As seems to be his practice, he said this without looking me in the face and left without giving me the time to answer.

 A strange encounter to say the least, but one unlikely to change the turn of events.


Jinnah may have tipped off Churchill on '46 riots


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Was Winston Churchill in secret communication with Mohammad Ali Jinnah and was he tipped off about ''Direct Action Day'', August 16, 1946, which saw brutal killings by Muslim League activists in Kolkata?

Correspondence recently declassified by the British government indicates a close link between Jinnah and Churchill. The letters relate to the second half of 1946, when Churchill, having lost the 1945 election, was Leader of Opposition.

In the letters, Jinnah seems to warn Churchill about imminent violence. As riots broke out all over India and the Labour government-lead by Churchill's rival Clement Atlee - sought to hurriedly transfer power, Churchill played counsellor to Jinnah, but privately. He advised Jinnah that they should not meet in public. Instead, correspondence was to be addressed to ''Miss E.A. Gilliatt, 6 Westminster Gardens, London.'' Gillaitt was Churchill's private secretary.

The intriguing letters will figure in a documentary made by media firm News Watch Asia to be telecast by Zee News on August 14.

The letters reveal Jinnah saw Churchill as an ally against ''caste Hindus''. The Conservative wartime leader - hostile to the ''liquidation of the British Empire'' - was told by the Muslim League leader on July 6, 1946, that the Cripps Mission had ''shaken the confidence of Muslim Indians and shattered their hopes for an honorable and peaceful settlement''.

Jinnah wrote: ''If power politics are going to be the deciding factor in total disregard for fair play and justice, we shall have no other course open to us except to forge our sanctions to meet the situation which, in that case, is bound to arise. Its consequence, I need not say, will be most disastrous and a peaceful settlement will then become impossible.'' Less than six weeks later came the bloodbath of Direct Action.

Replying to Jinnah on August 5, Churchill ''espoused the right of Moslems and the Depressed Classes to their fair share of life and power. I feel that it is most important that the British Army should not be used to dominate the Moslems, even though the caste Hindus might claim numerical majority in a constituent assembly''.

On August 22, Jinnah wrote again to Churchill, focusing his ire on Churchill's domestic opponents, the Labour Party, which Jinnah felt was Congress-friendly. ''You admit the tendencies in England to support the Congress are very strong in the Government Party,'' Jinnah wrote, ''we have had a bitter taste of it. The Muslim League was progressively betrayed by the Cabinet Delegation and the Viceroy and was being gradually steam-rolled. When the Secretary of State for India and his colleagues and the Viceroy finally disclosed their hands, undoubtedly, there could be only one result and that is a general revolt against the British. For who else is responsible to force down and thrust upon 100 million Muslims of India terms which the Congress alone will be pleased to accept.''

The argument on the British-Muslim relationship was an old one. On August 3, Churchill had written to Jinnah: ''I was... surprised to read all the insulting things that were said about Britain at the Moslem Congress in Bombay, and how the Moslems of India were described as undergoing British slavery. All this is quite untrue and ungrateful.''

But on December 12, a wary Churchill turned down a lunch invitation at the Claridges's, advising that the two should not be ''associated publicly".

But this is what he really opined  about Islam. Winston Churchill on Islam - Speech in 1899

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries.  Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property,  either as a  child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of  slavery until  the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

"Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."

 -Sir Winston Churchill (The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).



June 16,2006

The extensive connections between the Americas and India from archived pages of

This was also a time when trade and commerce greatly expanded and prospered. When Elihu went to India as a humble 'writer' the East India company was notorious for the small salaries it paid to their servants. Even the Governor was only paid £100 per year. They were no doubt expected to make money by trading with the natives on their own account. Elihu succeeded so well that after twenty seven years in India he returned home with a fortune which would today be considered suitable for a multi- millionaire. This was a period when great fortunes could be made and lost. The South Sea bubble brought misfortune to many through the greed of both unscrupulous promoters and gullible investors. It was a period of bribery and corruption; parallels can be drawn even today with several spectacular failures of finance companies. Also in this period another great institution was founded - the Bank of England. Although a private bank founded by Charter from William III it was closely associated with the Government.

Elihu Yale was one of the first to return from India with a fortune and consequently to be accused of sharp practice.

Inauguration of Indo-American Trade


Thomas Bell was the first American sea captain to officially bring a cargo to India from America. His ship was named the United States and reached India on 26 December 1784.

The first American ship to reach China with a cargo in 1784 faced considerable difficulty since it did not carry enough silver for payments to be made in China. The Chinese did not accept any currency or product.

Elihu Yale used his fortunes to good effect by funding what today is known as the Yale University. In all he gifted it £562; that being the largest gift that the institution received for the next 100 years.

The American contact with India is very old. The first Americans came to India via the English East India Company. After independence from the English on the 4th July 1776 they began to come here as traders from an independent country.

One of the first important Americans to come to India was Elihu Yale of Connecticut who reached the coast of India in 1672. As a young man of 24 he worked as a clerk to the English East India Company at the meagre salary of £10 per year. India in those days was the land of opportunity for all. It was presumed that the clerk would supplement his income through a variety of illegal means. Yale rose to become the Governor of Madras [1687 – 1692] and retired with an immense fortune.

Not all Americans made it rich. One who did not was Major General David Ochterlony. A graduated.gif of the New Hampshire’s Dummer Academy, he commanded the troops of the East India Company that conquered Nepal. Ochterlony was appointed the Resident to the Mughal Emperor’s court in Delhi. He purchased a large amount of property by taking loans from various Indian moneylenders. Ultimately the heavy interest charged on these loans turned him into a veritable pauper. For his services the English crown made him a knight in 1815 and provided him a pension after retirement.

Among the people of the world the Americans were the last to begin trade with India. Their early trade was mostly in items which were appreciated by the 16,000 strong European community in India. The rum manufactured in New England is reported by Professor Bhagat to be a major item of trade. Other items included fish, pork, beef and spermaceti candles. Indians, however, showed no desire to purchase American products. So having reached India most American ships occupied themselves with what was known as the ‘country trade’, i.e. carrying goods between the ports of India and between India and other ports of Africa and Asia.

After achieving independence the Americans began a search for markets in the East. The first ship to leave the American coast for this purpose was owned by Robert Morris. It was called the Empress of China. Its captain was John Green. With a mixed cargo worth $120,000 it set sail on Sunday, February the 22nd, 1784 from New York for China. But it could do little trade since it was not carrying enough silver while the Chinese, having little need of the whites or their manufactures, used only silver for the selling of goods to them.

A month later, on 22nd March 1784, a 200 ton ship called the United States set sail for India with a cargo of ginseng, naval stores, copper, miscellaneous hardware, a considerable amount in dollars and of course lots of New England rum. Thomas Bell was its captain. It reached Pondicherry at 6 p.m. on the 26th December 1784 after a voyage of 9 months and 1 day. The French Governor of Pondicherry de Bussy welcomed the Americans heartily much to the consternation of the officers of the English East India Company based in Madras [now Chennai]. They feared that the Americans would set up a base in India and vie for power. It did not help matters that the Nawab of Arcot too welcomed the Americans and gave a favourable reply to the letter that Captain Bell had brought him from the American Congress. The United States sailed back for the US on 13th February 1785. The return journey was very difficult. Most of its crewmen died due to scurvy and lack of fresh water. The ship reached Philadelphia on September 13th, 1875. Thus the trade link between India and the United States was inaugurated.

Dr M. Rajivlochan, Department of History, Panjab University, Chandigarh, can be contacted at
A New American View -- International Edition White Paper



June 6, 2006

Time sensitive

 please attend An overview of the lawsuit to correct misrepresentation
      of Hinduism in CA Textbooks

There are currently  2 lawsuits, one by CAPEEM  (this one ) and one  by HAF, fighting the misrepresentation of Hinduism in California text books. The first is  a federal complaint while the second is being fought in state courts. Both need our support. There are however some conceptual differences in the  2 lawsuits. The emphasis in the CAPEEM law suit is on the violation of constitutional rights, such as the protection of equal treatment under the law. Suffice it to say that winning on constitutional grounds will make a powerful statement to the rest of the American community and has long term implications to  the health and well being of  the Hindu community. I would urge all those in the Bay area to attend this meeting ,if you agree that there is  a problem in the depiction of the Hindu faith in California text books.

Famines in British India

One of the forgotten stories of yesteryear is that of the ubiquitous occurrence of Famines during British rule in the Indian subcontinent. Our primary focus remains the accurate portrayal of the Indic civilization. However there are reasons why we do not wish to gloss over  the holocausts that took place during British rule and during the 500 years of Islamic domination of the Indian subcontinent. As the quote by Will Durant aptly encapsulates, there is only so much abuse that a civilization will take before there is mortal damage to the ethos  of the civilization and the psyche of the survivors. Our purpose here remains one of reaching an understanding of the durability and resilience of the Indic civilization, but at the same time one must have an accurate description of the massive damage inflicted on this civilization during the last 800 years. No Indian should forget the horrors of the destruction and genocide wrought by Tamer Lang in Delhi in 1398 CE, the consistent enslavement of the Indic population over several centuries, the naming of an entire mountain range in Afghanistan for what it signified, the death of millions of slaves as they were carried away to the slave markets of Samarqand, Damascus, Isfahan and Bokhara, the great Bengal famine of 1769, which initiated a whole cycle of famines in India over a 180 year period , culminating in the Great Bengal Famine of 1943, the rapacity of Warren Hastings and Robert Clive and the subsequent enrichment of the British landed gentry , resulting in the countryside being dotted with mansions dating from 1770 onwards. There has been no apology forthcoming. It is perhaps audacious of the children of a lesser God to expect such apologies, but surely it is important, the British public should not remain blissfully oblivious of the pernicious and penurious effects of their sustained impoverishment of India. The holocaust under British rule was of a lesser magnitude than the Holocaust under Islamic domination  but the rate at which human beings were killed each century was significantly higher during the British Raj  if we include all man made causes   such as famines.

We reiterate once again the reasons for reliving the past; it is mainly to learn the right lessons and to undertake actions and measures to avoid a repetition of the past. It is often asserted that we should not dwell on the past , since it would unnecessarily hurt the sentiments of  our fellow Indian Muslims of today , who had little to do with the happenings of the past. To this we say, that a little bit of hurt sentiment never hurt anyone, and it would be  more horrifying if we were to find out that there was no hurt sentiment at all. Certainly to speak of hurt sentiments in the same breath as they glorify the Muslim conquest of India signifies a cognitive dissonance which deserves an explanation and we feel there are the beginnings of thoughtful Indian Muslims who take the same view of our history as we do as exemplified by Dr. Abdul Kalam ,the current President of India

We begin by linking two articles one, from an address  by Dr. Babu Suseelan in a symposium on the Roots of Terrorism, and another by Dr. Gideon Polya on the Great Famines of India. The links are to be found in our new section on Holocausts and Famines in India



May  30,2006

Will Durant (1885-1981) American historian. Will Durant is the  author of the multivolume  'The story of Civilization'. Need i say more.He espoused a style of history he termed Integral History. Durant was born in North Adams, Massachusetts of French-Canadian parents who had been part of the Quebec emigration to the USA. He fought for equal wages, women’s suffrage and fairer working conditions for the American labor force. Durant not only wrote on many topics but also put his ideas into effect. Durant, it has been said widely, attempted to bring philosophy to the common man. He authored The Story of Philosophy, The Mansions of Philosophy, and, with the help of his wife, Ariel, wrote The Story of Civilization. He also wrote magazine articles.

He tried to improve understanding of viewpoints of human beings and to have others forgive foibles and human waywardness. He chided the comfortable insularity of what is now known as Eurocentrism, by pointing out in "Our Oriental Heritage" that Europe was only a "a jagged promontory of Asia." He complained of "the provincialism of our traditional histories which began with Greece and summed up Asia in a line" and said they showed "a possibly fatal error of perspective and intelligence." In the "Age of Faith", he wrote a highly accessible history of Islam for the general North American reader in an effort to create greater tolerance and understanding.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ford in 1977.

He had a great love of the intellectual traditions of ancient Indian philosophy .His article on Vedanta and AdiSankara can be  found in the page on Philosophy

o        It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to us such questionable gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all our numerals and our decimal system. But these are not the essence of her spirit; they are trifles compared to what we may learn from her in the future.

o        Perhaps in return for conquest, arrogance and spoliation, India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of the mature mind, the quiet content of the un-acquisitive soul, the calm of the understanding spirit, and a unifying, a pacifying love for all living things.

o        India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all. Nothing should more deeply shame the modern student than the recency and inadequacy of his acquaintance with India....This is the India that patient scholarship is now opening up like a new intellectual continent to that Western mind which only yesterday thought civilization an exclusive Western thing.

o        "As flowing rivers disappear in the sea, losing their name and form, thus a wise man, freed from name and form, goes to the divine person who is beyond all." Such a theory of life and death will not please Western man, whose religion is as permeated with individualism as are his political and economic institutions. But it has satisfied the philosophical Hindu mind with astonishing continuity.

o        Even in Europe and America, this wistful theosophy has won millions upon millions of followers, from lonely women and tired men to Schopenhauer and Emerson.

Thught for the Day

It may be true that you can't fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country. -Will Durant


Tipu's Rockets

May 25,2006

I had often heard of the rockets used by Tipu against the British in Srirangapatna in what was then  called Mysore. But it was a characteristic temper of the times in Europe then  on the cusp of   the great advance  they would make and  had already made  in the sciences by the likes of Leonhard Euler, that they would study the rockets of Tipu in great detail and improve upon them. The man responsible for doing this was Sir William Congreve, who was later to show up in the Americas with these same but improved rockets in the war of 1812. There are  several interesting anecdotes connected with the story of the Indian rockets. One of them has to do with the Star spangled banner, the American national anthem.

"Francis Scott Key coined the phrase the "rocket's red glare after the British fired Congreve rockets against the United States in the War of 1812. Congreve had used a 16-foot guidestick to help stabilize his rocket. William Hale, another British inventor, invented the stickless rocket in 1846. The U.S. army used the Hale rocket more than 100 years ago in the war with Mexico. Rockets were also used to a limited extent in the Civil War. (Reproduced from a painting by Charles Hubbell and presented here courtesy of TRW Inc. and Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio



The Rockets Red Glare
by Allen W. McDonnell

The Start Spangled Banner, National anthem of the United States of America dates back to the War of 1812. During that war Frances Scott Key went aboard a British Frigate to negotiate the release of an important prisoner of war.

Having arrived with another negotiator under a flag of Truce Mr. Key succeeded in getting the prisoner released, but fearing that the three men knew their plan of attack for the next day the British kept all three under arrest aboard the ship until after the Battle of Ft. McHenry. Sailing close to the fort the British used the super weapon of the 1800's, the Congreve rocket with Shrapnel bomb attached.

The British were fortunate that these two men, Lt. Henry Shrapnel and inventor William Congreve were born in England and loyal to the crown. Lt. Shrapnel invented his artillery shell in 1784. It was adopted by the British in 1803. A shrapnel shell is designed to explode while still in the air over the enemy's head's raining down sharp pieces of metal on them. These shells were especially effective in a day and age when antiseptics were unknown and even minor wounds often lead to infection and death." (now we know how the word shrapnel originated)

In 1792,Lord Cornwallis, after resurrecting himself from the ignominious loss of  the Americas went on to become  Governor General of India and inflicted the first defeat of  Tipu Sultan, the Ruler of Mysore.

There is another anecdote connecting America, India and Europe and this has to do with the  Duke of Wellington, the victor against Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo. We will let President Abdul Kalam tell the story, in the History of  Indian Rocketry

"The British consider the Duke of Wellington, Colonel Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), who defeated Napoleon at the famous battle of Waterloo (1815), one of their greatest national heroes. However, not many people know that this hero of Waterloo had to run away from the battlefield when attacked by the rockets and musket-fire of Tipu Sultan's army.

It happened at the time of the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war (April 1799). General Harris led the British forces on the siege of Shrirangapattana, the capital of Tipu. The British forces had reached quite close to the fort of Srirangapatana, but there was a formidable obstruction. To the south-west of the fort, near the village of Sultanpet, there was a large tope, where Tipu had stationed his rocketmen. Obviously, they had to be cleared out before the siege could be pressed closer to Shrirangapattana island. The commander chosen for this operation was Col. Wellesley.

Col. Wellesley was not an ordinary Englishman. He was the younger brother of Lord Wellesley   (who succeeded Cornwallis), the then Governor-General of India (1798-1805). Col.Wellesley, advancing towards the tope after dark on the 5th April, was attacked by a tremendous fire of musketry and rockets. The men gave way and retreated in disorder. In the midst of chaos that followed, Col. Wellesley lost his way, hid himself somewhere in the night and could report to Harris late only on the next day.

The 'Sultanpet incident' had a profound and traumatic effect on Arthur Wellesley. His biographer Guedalla tells us that, even late in his life, after Waterloo, the unpleasing night lived vividly in Arthur's memory."

Col.Wellesley went on to become Prime Minister of Britain as Duke of Wellington. Britain, in the early nineteenth century, was for all intents and purposes, an oligarchy ruled by a few selected individuals chosen from the House of Lords. So important were the Indian possessions of the British empire, that service in India was highly regarded as a prerequisite to hold the office of Prime Minister

Read more in the Rocketry section



May 2,2006

I decided to follow up on a hunch and attend the annual gathering of the IISc Alumni association. For those not as familiar  with this acronym it stands for Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. I had missed meeting with fellow alumni during the last few  years ,and the thought was that here was an opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances and meet with new ones.. Well, i did  not meet with any of my 'old classmates .Come to think of it , it would have been highly unlikely to meet somebody from the class  of '63. But  i did meet some interesting individuals . One was the incoming president of the association Mr. Ashok Sinha and the other was a very delightful young lady by the name of  Ms. Anita Mukherjee and her husband Animesh , who were manning the welcome desk. It turned out we had an interest in some common topics such as History, and I prevailed upon her to contribute an essay for the web site. The result is a very perceptive column on Thomas Babington  Macaulay.  Those keeping track of such matters will recall he is the author of the Indian Penal Code ( of which section 420 was immortalized thanks to Raj Kapoor's famous movie  Shree 420) which has had its own unique impact on the Indic psyche. But  more importantly Lord Macaulay will be remembered for his infamous 'Minute on Education' and the hubris with which  he regarded Indian traditions and literature and especially Cosmology. Yet, however racist  his remarks may appear, he  believed genuinely in the notion of the 'white mans burden' .

After reading Anita Mukherjee' article linked below in the "Whats new"section feel free to read or reread my essay on The South Asia File and the verbatim quotes in the appendix . One is left speechless when he says with evident passion and sincerity

"Propter vitam vivendi perdere causas," ["To lose the reason for living, for the sake of staying alive"] is a despicable policy both in individuals and in states. In the present case, such a policy would be not only despicable, but absurd. The mere extent of empire is not necessarily an advantage. To many governments it has been cumbersome; to some it has been fatal. It will be allowed by every statesman of our time that the prosperity of a community is made up of the prosperity of those who compose the community, and that it is the most childish ambition to covet dominion which adds to no man's comfort or security. To the great trading nation, to the great  manufacturing nation, no progress which any portion of the human race can make in knowledge, in taste for the conveniences of life, or in the wealth by which those conveniences are produced, can be matter of indifference. It is scarcely possible to calculate the benefits which we might derive from the diffusion of European civilization among the vast population of the East. It would be, on the most selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were well governed and independent of us, than ill governed and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broadcloth, and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salams to English collectors and English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures. To trade with civilized men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages."

Lofty sentiments indeed, but perhaps incongruous when juxtaposed against the reality of regular famines that overcame India within decades of  his pronouncements

As Jawahar Lal Nehru, Independent India's first Prime Minster remarked (and I paraphrase)  in his Discovery of India it is not usual to see such single minded devotion to Britain coupled with the   certainty of their conviction that they were specially endowed with the higher destiny of saving the souls of the Indics from their own excesses, but the British seemed particularly well endowed in this department.

In any event kudos to Anita for publicizing the lesser known pronouncements attributed  to his lordship. Bravo, Anita for your well articulated column.


May 13,2006

I am reproducing former President Bill Clinton's forward to Madeleine Albrights latest literary endeavor  The Mighty and the Almighty. The reason i do so is the offending paragraph (in bold) where he blames Hindu militants  for the murder of the Sikhs in Chattisinghpura in Kashmir during the eve of his visit to India. Either he has a memory worse than mine or he is dissembling or what would be more appropriate fabricating a lie of immense proportions.I will have more to say on this matter later,as it is getting late in the night.

It suffices to say i am outraged and if you are outraged like me please do write to his office asking for a retraction.

My letter to President Bill Clinton

"During the time she was secretary of state, the world learned what I already knew: Madeleine Albright is unafraid to take on hard issues or to speak her mind. In The Mighty and the Almighty, she writes with uncommon frankness and good sense about America’s international role, religion, ethics, and the current divided and anxious state of the world. To my knowledge, no former secretary of state has written anything similar. It is an unexpected book, drafted against the advice of friends who worried that these topics could not be discussed without stepping on toes. In my experience, the only way to avoid stepping on toes is to stand still. Madeleine Albright is the embodiment of forward movement.

After our initial conversation about this project, I called Madeleine to discuss it further, not knowing at the time where she was. It turned out that she was in Gdánsk, Poland, commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Solidarity, the democracy movement hat ended the cold war and brought freedom to Central and East Europe. When I rang, Madeleine was standing in a crowd that included the former Czech president Václav Havel and the current presidents of Ukraine and Poland. She passed the phone around, and I had an unforeseen but welcome chance to catch up with some old friends. Meanwhile, Madeleine placed a bouquet of flowers as a memorial to Solidarity and attended a threehour open-air mass in celebration of freedom. I had caught her at a moment and in a place where God and democracy were together at center stage. One theme of this book, and a source of continuing controversy in public life, concerns the relationship between the two.

“The core of democracy,” wrote Walt Whitman, “is the religious element. All the religions, old and new, are there.” I expect we have all come across people who would embrace the first of Whitman’s sentences while ignoring the second, rendering both without meaning. At their best, religion and democracy each respect the equality and value of every human being: all of us stamped with the Creator’s image, each endowed with certain inalienable rights. These doctrines sit next to one another comfortably; they are unifying and inclusive. Problems arise when we try to place our own interpretation ahead of Whitman’s, arguing that those sharing our particular understanding of the universe are more worthy than others. To have faith is to believe in the existence of absolute truth. It is quite another thing to assert that imperfect human beings can be in full possession of this truth, or that we have a political ideology that is fully true and allows us to penalize, coerce, or abuse those who believe differently.

The Constitution of the United States created something truly new: a system of government in which the highest trust is placed not in the top officials, who are hemmed in by an ingenious system of checks and balances, but in the people as a whole. Among the limitations our founders placed on those in government was that they could not establish an official state religion, or abridge the right of anyone to worship freely. The founders understood from history that the concentration of political and religious authority in the same hands could be toxic.

We know, of course, that the power of faith is often exploited by those seeking to enhance their own power at the expense of others. In the Balkans, Slobodan Milosevic talked much about defending Christian Europe, but his real interest was in using religion and extreme divisiveness to fortify his hold on power. Osama bin Laden poses as a defender of Islam, but his willingness to murder innocents, including other Muslims, is not a fair reading of the Quran and is disloyal to the tenets of that faith. In the wrong hands, religion becomes a lever used to pry one group of people away from another not because of some profound spiritual insight, but because it helps whoever is doing the prying.

Does this mean that policy-makers should try to keep religion walled off from public life? As Madeleine Albright argues, the answer to that question is a resounding no. Not only shouldn’t we do that; we couldn’t succeed if we tried. Religious convictions, if they are convictions, can’t be pulled on and off like a pair of boots. We walk with them wherever we go, the skeptics and atheists side by side with the devout. A president or secretary of state must make decisions with regard both to his or her own religious convictions and to the impact of those decisions on people of different faiths. However, as Madeleine points out, assessing that impact is no easy task.

During my visit to India in 2000, some Hindu militants decided to vent their outrage by murdering thirty-eight Sikhs in cold blood. If I hadn’t made the trip, the victims would probably still be alive. If I hadn’t made the trip because I feared what religious extremists might do, I couldn’t have done my job as president of the United States. The nature of America is such that many people define themselves—or a part of themselves—in relation to it, for or against. This is part of the reality in which our leaders must operate.

When radical imams try to subvert the thinking of alienated, disaffected young people, not all of whom are poor or lacking in education, by offering a supposed quick trip to paradise in return for the believers’ willingness to kill civilians by blowing themselves up, how should we respond? We can try to kill and capture them, but we can’t get them all. We can try to persuade them to abandon violence, but if our arguments have no basis in their own experience, we can’t fully succeed. Our best chance is to work cooperatively with those in the Muslim world who are trying to reach the same minds as the radicals by preaching a more complete Islam, not a distorted, jagged shard.

I truly believe that this can be done, not by diluting spiritual beliefs but by probing their depths. The three Abrahamic faiths have more similarities than differences. Each calls for reverence, charity, humility, and love. None is fully revealed. The challenge for our leaders is to use what we have in common as a basis for defeating the most extreme elements and draining support for terror. Once people acknowledge their common humanity, it becomes more difficult for them to demonize and destroy each other. It is far easier to find principled compromise with one of “us” than with one of “them.” Our religious convictions can help us erase the age-old dividing line. No job is more important, but as this book by Madeleine Albright makes clear, it is a job that—four and a half years after 9/11—we have barely begun.

New York, February 2006


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