East India company

India’s border woes: A legacy of Colonialism, geography and Pakistan

(A reprint from NewsBred).

India is shouting from the rooftop it has made no transgressions across its eastern borders in neighbouring Nepal but it has made no difference to latter whose prime minister KP Oli  has joined his citizens who hit the streets in protest last week.

Nepal’s bitter political rivals, Nepal Communist Party and Nepali Congress, are united in anger and so are the students on the streets who are convinced India has swallowed the long-disputed Kalapani area in its latest map which it released in the wake of reconfiguration of Jammu & Kashmir state early this month.

India, meanwhile, has stressed it’s the same map and same boundaries it has depicted all along for over half a century now, including the other disputed territory of Susta in Nepal’s south which for the time being doesn’t get Nepal’s hackles up.

Blame it on geography’s changing moods and the toxicity of colonialism that India finds itself enmeshed in border disputes with not just Nepal but many others in its neighbourhood, including China.

Kalapani, and Susta are territories around Kali and Gandak rivers. After the Anglo-Gurkha War (1814-1816), Nepal and East India Company signed a treaty in March 1816. The two rivers drew the arbitrary borders between these two long-disputed sites. Territories right of Gandak river, including Susta, belonged to Nepal; those on the left were with India. Since then Gandak river has changed course: Now Susta is on the left of Gandak river and hence with India. As for Kalapani, British kept changing the source of Kali river which has led to rival claims of today.

China: Talks after talks

India’s border disputes with China are one of the most protracted ones in the world. Since the first border talks began in 1981 to the latest, the 22nd round, which is due later this year, solutions have eluded the two Asian giants who fight the legacy of British colonialism and are afraid to upset the domestic audience in a give-and-take eventuality.

The two countries share a 3,488-km long unresolved border but two, the Western and Eastern ones, are particularly contentious. China controls 37,000-square km sized Aksai Chin in the West, a virtually uninhabited high-altitude desert; India 84,000 square km-wide populated Arunachal Pradesh in the East. The two fought for a month in 1962 but since a peace deal was struck in 1993, dialogues have been preferred over violence.

Yet, no solution is in sight. Along vast stretches of the borders between the two, there is no mutually agreed Line of Actual Control (LAC). India follows the Johnson Line in the Western sector, proposed by the British in the 1860s, which allocates Aksai Chin to them. China asserts it never agreed to the Johnson Line and thus Aksai Chin is its own. Aksai Chin is between volatile Kashmir and China’s Xinjiang province which are seen troublesome to the two nations. Then there is MacMahon Line in Eastern sector, initiated in 1913-14 between China, India and Tibet which is disputed.

Fortunately, pragmatism has brought about Border Defence Cooperation Agreement between the two Asian giants. Soldiers patrol their territory but back off when brought face-to-face with each other. Quite often military commanders at the border share a bonhomie, exchange views and sort out local issues.

Pakistan: An intractable issue

The border dispute between India and Pakistan concern Kashmir and are on since their independence in 1947. Pakistan launched a tribal militia in Kashmir on independence and the ruler of Kashmir, Maharja Hari Singh, sought India’s assistance which put a condition on Kashmir first acceding to India. Having duly secured the accession, India airlifted its troops to Srinagar and by the time cease-fire was secured after a year, India controlled two-thirds of the Kashmir while the remaining one-third was possessed by Pakistan. The status-quo has prevailed despite three wars and as many peace agreements (Tashkent, Simla, Lahore) between the two neighbours.

Bangladesh: All quiet at borders

India and East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) became free from the British empire in 1947 but the two retained thousands of citizens in hundreds of enclaves in each other’s territory. These enclave dwellers lived without any rights or papers, virtually stateless and lacking basics in education, health and security. All this changed for the good when the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi signed a historic pact with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina in 2015. It allowed these thousands of stateless people an opportunity to choose either of the two countries as their own. Land was also swapped between the two nations. The border dispute between the two is settled for good.

Similarly, India had a small dispute with Sri Lanka over an uninhabited 235-acre island, Katchatheevu, which was satisfactorily solved after India formally gifted it to Sri Lanka in the 70s. India has extremely minor border issues with Myanmar and practically none with Bhutan.

The curse of colonialism has left India with border issues which are non-existent, say in a majority of Europe or even between United States and Canada even though the demarcating line between the two countries is a straight one. With strong governments in place, India and China could settle the mutual issues to a great deal. The one with Pakistan though is another matter.

 

 

 

 

How Rani of Jhansi escaped the Nehruvian hammer of oblivion

I happened to watch “Manikarnika—The Queen of Jhansi” in theatre the other day. Kangana Ranaut as the protagonist was a force of purity and leaping flame. Fleeting were the images of India’s War of Independence of 1857 of which she was a leading light. It shook the East India Company and led to India’s formal takeover by the British crown.

People of my generation surely remember the immortal poem of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan (1904-1948): “Bundele Harbolon Ke Moonh Humnein Suni Kahani Thi; Khoob Ladi Mardani Woh to Jhansi Waali Rani Thi.”(Read the full nerve-tingling poem here). I am not sure if the inspirational poem is still part of Class VI textbook and the younger lot is as familiar as we were while growing up; so I advice do watch the movie, look up for Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi and you could also be wrestling with a few questions which have since assailed me.

Do we have a state celebration of the birth (November 19, 1828) or death (June 18, 1858 ) anniversary of the Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi as we have of Tipu Sultan (November 10) in Karnataka? Why May 10 is not celebrated as the day the 1857 War of Independence broke out? Why not have a commemorative trail from Meerut to Delhi? Or at least make accessible the book, written by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, on the subject. Isn’t those who forget history are condemned to repeat it?

The other issue which interests me is how Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi escaped the censorious Nehruvian impact which usually has been the fate of glorious figures of Hindu kings, generals and dare I say politicians (Sardar Patel and Madan Mohan Malviya, for instance). After all, she was the central figure of Hindutva politics circa 1857 and has been an icon ever since. How the Rani of Jhansi remained alive in the nation’s psyche despite the Western-oriented elites controlling the written and spoken words in this country.

 

For one, Rani of Jhansi herself was a subject of great attention by the Colonial authors and historians. The patriarchal society of West had a problem in coming to terms with the Rani. The British press was quick to dub her as “The Jezebel of India” or a shameless and immoral woman (after Jezebel, wife of Ahab in the Old Testament). Contemporary historian John Lang, who knew her, wrote in Wanderings in India (1858): “Her dress was plain white muslin, so fine in texture and drawn about her in such a way that the outline of her figure was plainly discernible—a remarkably fine figure she had.” Christopher Hibbert in his Great Mutiny says that Rani was to acquire among British officers an “undeserved reputation for excessive lasciviousness.” Basically, the colonial myth of British masculinity and the domesticity of Hindu women didn’t conform with Rani’s persona.

All this to go with her universally acknowledged bravery. Field Marshal Hugh Rose who fought her on warfields, thus described her: “She was the bravest and best military leader of the rebels—a man among mutineers.” Lord Cumberland said that she was the most dangerous of all the rebel leaders.

Her fascination among the natives has many roots. There have been novels and non-fictions aplenty, including one (Rani of Jhansi) by Mahasweta Devi; a great number of films and television serials, even a video game and countless folk tales, poetry and oral traditions. It’s a staggering amount of work. (all of which could be viewed here).

One of the more remarkable work is by Harleen Singh: The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History and Fable in India (Cambridge University Press, 2014). The book analyses gender, sexuality, race and religion in India through the prism of Rani of Jhansi. She was seen as the Indian Joan of Arc, a heroic and saintly spirit (A goddess, divine spirit, a Maa Durga in the eyes of worshipping Indians). During India’s freedom struggle, she seamlessly became a symbol of the nationalist cause, causing an outburst in Hindi novels and literature and  kept her legacy alive. She became a metaphor of Indian daughter, mother, wife and queen of both home and nation. One who could be viewed from various prisms of nation, gender and identity.

Essentially, Rani of Jhansi captured the imagination of masses and their discursive tales: She was as much a Hindu revivalist of Maratha empire as she was owned by Dalits for the mass struggle she inspired against the British. She was something to everyone. I guess that’s the reason the destructive impact of Nehruvian philosophy couldn’t get to Rani of Jhansi despite her blanking in media and academia circles (just compare how the legend of Queen Padmavati was lampooned in English mainstream media recently).

Keep it alive folks, do a good job of it. For Rani of Jhansi is our glorious legend and heritage.

 

Betfair assists lcexch.com; hurts India

Betfair, the biggest online betting network in the world with over 50 million pounds sterling of turnover per week, assists illegal betting operations in India and the authorities are either helpless or not interested in taking up the matter. Even Betfair’s past history of data theft doesn’t seem to wake up the regulatory bodies from another Cambridge Analytica kind of situation emerging.

Betfair lends its technology and system to www.lcexch.com which is run by a Pakistani from Dubai but primarily targets the illegal massive Indian betting markets, reportedly siphoning off Rs 5000 crores of cash per month. It even gives rise to suspicion that www.lcexch.com could even be a front for Betfair.

The website www.lxcexch.com shares profits and loss with Indian bettors in cash through the help of its agents spread in every nook and corner of India. The “collection” of black money then goes through “havala” via Dubai to Pakistan from where it ostensibly is used to fund drugs and terrorism in India.

That the operations of www.lcexch.com is done physically is apparent by the fact that you can’t sign up for this website, implying its’ a closely operated network of punters and bookies.

Despite extensive coverage in India, the crime and regulatory authorities in India are yet to crack down on the nefarious operations even as a more damaging picture is only now beginning to emerge.

Betfair has admitted in the past that it stole the payment data of 3.15 million of its clients; a further personal details of 3 million other users—in all over 6 million data of its clients.

The fact evokes the dreaded image of Cambridge Analytica, recently in news for data breach of Facebook that ostensibly is used to affect and shape elections, including ones in India.

Betfair technically is safe on legal grounds since it only supports the operations of a Dubai and not India-run website but it’s impossible it doesn’t know that this website’s betting is done in cash and that online betting is prohibited in India—hence it clearly seems in league with an illegal betting website.

Besides helping generate black money and siphoning off India’s money abroad, Betfair also is not accountable that the data it collects of Indians is safe and secure and that it’s not guilty of creating a Cambridge Analytica kind of dangerous situation.

There is a saying that colonial powers ruled the word on one axiom: Take control of any one of the three—Land, Labour or Resources—and you would control that country.

That Betfair doesn’t become another East India Company is a responsibility squarely on the shoulders of Indian authorities which hasn’t so far shut down www.lxexch.comdespite extensive coverage. It’s time it actively and swiftly brings the website down to a close.

’57 Mutiny Day: It’s modern relevance

To this very day, May 11, 1857, Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar received a few hundreds of East Indian Company cavalrymen in Red Fort, Delhi who sought his blessing to throw out the yoke of British rule in India.

As a letter from one of the rebels’ leaders put it: “The English are people who overthrow all religions…As the English are the common enemy of both (Hindus and Muslims), we should unite in their slaughter…By this alone, will the lives and faiths of both be saved.”

This heralded the start of the greatest revolt against colonial powers, English or otherwise, of the 19th century. Practically everyone in the Bengal army turned against their British officers. Civilian unrest soon kicked in in support of the rebelling sepoys across the country.

The discontent had been building to a climax. The British, who arrived as traders in the 17th century, showed their true colours by the 18th. Britain wanted to dominate the world and be the sole global power in a new British century. Lord Wellesley, governor general of India from 1798-1805, vowed to remove any European or Muslim regime which became an obstacle to this dream.

So fervent was this ambition, the so-called Forward Policy, that Britain pulled out all stops to bring the “jewel” India under complete subjugation. Local laws were abolished. A massive drive began to turn the “godless natives” into Christians.

The building discontent had more than one dimension to it. Along with interference in local customs and evangelical drives, Indians resented the use of English in schools as well as the coercive powers of judicial- social interventionist methods.

Indian industries lay in ruins. Handicrafts and agriculture only caused indebtedness. The “gang” of money lenders, such as landlords and zamindars, had joined hands with the Britishers.

So insistent were British in bringing “sovereign” Muslim native rulers under its yoke that they manipulated and spread all kind of lies. In order to annex the flourishing Avadh region, they produced a “fake dossier” before parliament. It was so full of distortions and lies that one British officer, involved in the operation, termed it as “a fiction of official penmanship.” The locals though preferred the  “slandered regime” of the Nawab…to rose-coloured government of the company,” as the official put it.

This combustible situation needed a spark and it was provided by the greased cartridge affair. The revolt spread quickly, a tribute to the secrecy with which the uprising had been planned. British asserted its force by September, British forces attacked Delhi, already under the siege. The massacre included those of ordinary citizens. In one neighbourhood, Kucha Chelan, 1400 unarmed locals were hacked to death. Delhi was pillaged torched, completely ruined by the vengeful foreigners.

Emperor Zafar was trialed and hanged. He was slapped with an absurd charge: A Muslim conspiracy to subvert the entire British Empire, stretching from Mecca and Iran to Delhi. The fact that it was an uprising largely planned by Hindu sepoys was conveniently ignored.

The outcome is well-documented: The 1858 Government of India Act ensured that the control was passed on from East India Company into the hands of the British Empire. The make-up of military forces was dramatically altered. The rule was so heavy-handed that between 1858-1947, there were only 20 minor mutinies mounted by Indian regiments.  But coercive methods also sparked an awakening of Indian nationalism and the signs of an emerging modern India was everywhere—in schools, colleges, universities.

Britain couldn’t have afforded to let India go. It was a major destination of investment for traders and bankers. The high-growth sectors were rail, tea and cloth. The British was unwilling to allow India, the “great barracks whose taxpayers supported up to half of the British regular army” to slip out of its grasp.

As in now, there is striking similarity in West’s methods. Like today, the rulers blamed it on “Muslim fanaticism.” They termed their opponents as “incarnate fiends,” Their heavy-handedness bears a striking resemblance to the present tale in Middle East and elsewhere. The intrusion has radicalized the people against them, like it was in 1857.