Friday, December 29, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Now, a conclave
senior members of the Union Cabinet will huddle together on January 2 to search for the causes behind painfully slow economic reforms. One thing can be said at the outset though: no new idea or initiative is likely to emerge. All the friction points are known as are the ways to grease them. 

Hrithik storm in Nepal cup
father almost died in an attack allegedly by goons of a Pakistan-based mafia. Even now, Hrithik Roshan and father Rakesh Roshan live in constant fear of elimination following repeated threats to that effect. Well, what the mafia threatens to do in physical terms is sought to be done by its backers in distant Nepal in a different way: by organising riots against the fledgling actor there.



Red Fort and “red alert”
December 28, 2000
PM’s birthday gift
December 27, 2000
Mounting peace pressure
December 26, 2000
Red Fort breached
December 25, 2000
Hijacking regulation of metabolism
December 24, 2000
Slap and Samba case
December 23, 2000
It’s now R-Day ceasefire
December 22, 2000
A rotting scandal
December 21, 2000
Hell called Pak jails
December 20, 2000




Frankly Speaking

by Hari Jaisingh
Putting a stop to the drift
Problems demand new responses

AS the world moves on to the next millennium, it will be worthwhile to have an honest assessment of where India stands in the comity of nations. Performance assessments have been done even in the past. 


Australia’s Refugee Gulag 
by S. P. Seth
ARELY will an Australian newspaper run a story with the headline, “Gulag Woomera”, to highlight the desperate situation of boat refugees in an Australian detention centre. But one national daily, The Australian, did exactly this recently in its weekend edition. 

Our ancient links with Central Asia
by M.S.N. Menon
NCE they lived together as brothers — the people on both sides of the Hindukush. They had a common language, common gods and common customs. Varuna, the sky god, was common to both. So were Indra and Mitra.


Summer whine
by Bimal Bhatia
RE you glad that the summer is far behind you? Ecological changes have turned the seasons on their head. That’s how you see the intermingling of summer and monsoons. The summer isn’t officially over till the end of monsoons. You feel comfortable only while it’s raining. And just as the downpour stops you feel the heat again.

Trends and pointers




Now, a conclave

Seven senior members of the Union Cabinet will huddle together on January 2 to search for the causes behind painfully slow economic reforms. One thing can be said at the outset though: no new idea or initiative is likely to emerge. All the friction points are known as are the ways to grease them. But the problem is total lack of team spirit and focus. Also, fierce opposition from within the government to any meaningful change. It is not being cynical to say that until now the twin tasks of mapping out the reforms and their sequence are yet to be undertaken. In their place ad hocism has taken deep roots and this translates into warning of tough decisions by the Prime Minister and the presence of the feel-good-factor by the Finance Minister. The needless and running battle with the main opposition party completes the picture. Coalition dharma has degenerated to regional dharma with state satraps concentrating on their narrow interests or what they grandly claim to be their compulsions. This distorts the priorities and makes a mockery of collective responsibility. Two vital ministries provide telling proof. Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee is accountable only to herself. She is opposed to disinvestment of any sick public sector undertakings in her state of West Bengal. No ideology or economics is involved in her attitude. It is pure politics, electoral politics. She has to fight the Assembly election next year and has to outdo the main rival, the Left Front, and hence her strident pro-working class stand. The number of employees involved in the six units marked for early closure is very small. Anyway, they just receive their wages and do no work; the machinery is obselete and the demand for their products is dropping. An exit fund, generous retrenchment compensation, should have been set up a long while ago and maybe workers would have welcomed it as a honourable way out of accepting what amounts to a dole. The mighty didi has also refused to heed the Cabinet advice to stop recruitment from her state, saying unemployment is at an unacceptable level there. She has famously refused to raise freight rates or passenger fare in her last budget and has promised a repeat show next year. Her melodramatic resignation over the price increase of petroleum products and very harsh criticism of the Prime Minister’s remarks on Ayodhya do not disrupt economic policy but project the government in bad light. With an emotional and unpredictable opponent of sane policy sitting in the Cabinet, it is not possible to build a reasonable consensus. Yes, she has not been invited to the January 2 conclave.

Then there is the redoubtable Mr Ram Vilas Paswanji, who has declared total independence to pursue his own agenda. With four MPs, his newly floated Janshakti Party behaves like a super Cabinet. He is firmly set against diluting government holding in VSNL not because he is a socialist but without that and MTNL, he would be presiding over just postal services. His own opinion of himself will not permit such a steep dimunition of status. So he is fighting and in an interview to a news agency, has declared that during the next decade national policies will be decided by regional parties and that will mark an exciting new stage of democracy. In his earlier avtar as Railway Minister he recruited nearly a lakh of employees, mostly from his home state of Bihar. With Cabinet Ministers like him and several others, sane policies have to be at a premium. He too will miss the summit meeting. This is where the Prime Minister should start. Economic illiteracy and political expediency are playing havoc. It is imperative that the two are separated. And political opposition and economic convergence as between the NDA and the Congress should be recognised. The Congress is the best supporter for pushing through the new programme and it requires a total change of political culture. It is awkward to offer suggestions, but the government must set up a formal or informal consultation with the Congress, although life-long anti-Congress drum-beaters like Mr George Fernandes will demur. Two, delink economic decision making from political operation. And three, if the government really seeks sincere support, it should build a base among the people, the ultimate beneficiary of the whole process. As Prof Jagdish Bhagwati says, a new economic culture will stimulate growth, free the government to fight poverty and illiteracy and improve living atmosphere. It is a tough task to sell these ideas to a people who feel that they are victims of government policies. But there is no alternative. Ideologically committed people will continue to oppose reforms but are open to debate and change of perspective. An imaginative campaign will win the day for reforms as a people’s movement. A summit of heavyweights is not the forum but a starting point to go to the masses. 


Hrithik storm in Nepal cup

His father almost died in an attack allegedly by goons of a Pakistan-based mafia. Even now, Hrithik Roshan and father Rakesh Roshan live in constant fear of elimination following repeated threats to that effect. Well, what the mafia threatens to do in physical terms is sought to be done by its backers in distant Nepal in a different way: by organising riots against the fledgling actor there. The fury of the violence that has broken out is matched only by the sheer meaningless of it all. This brouhaha is in protest against an anti-Nepali remark reportedly made by Hrithik in one of the interviews telecast by a TV channel. The just-married actor says he did not even make a mention of Nepal in any of his interviews. The screaming headlines in the Nepalese newspapers make no mention of the channel on which it was telecast or when the purported interview was on the air. Surely, the supposed interview should have been seen by thousands, if not lakhs, of people, considering the superstar status that he currently enjoys. If it were alleged that he made the remarks in a newspaper interview, perhaps somebody could have alleged that he was now going back on his words. But how can an interview that has been telecast be denied? How come nobody in India has seen that interview? TV channels have also said that they did not telecast any such interview. The way violence is continuing despite the actor's clarification, it is clear that it is being aided and abetted by certain parties who want to exploit the situation to the hilt. In the ugly episode, the response of the Nepalese Government has been less than balanced. While it has every right to temporarily put a ban on the Hrithik films apprehending a breach of the peace, it has not helped matters by demanding that Hrithik should apologise for his remarks. Its ultimatum gives credence to the rumours that Hrithik did make the anti-Nepalese remark ("I hate Nepal and the Nepalese"). The moot point is: has he made the remarks at all? In telephone interviews to the media from Australia, where he is honeymooning, he has been pleading innocence repeatedly, challenging anyone to produce evidence or transcript of the interview from any channel in the world. So what should he apologise for?

The fact of the matter is that the "Kaho Na Pyar Hai" phenomenon has been made a scapegoat by the anti-India lobby operating in the neighbouring kingdom. The way leftist students are carrying out the agitation makes the motives very clear. And it is no secret that the ISI has a strong presence in Nepal and has been spreading its tentacles in the recent past. What should be remembered is that the whole controversy has been engineered on the first anniversary of the hijacking of an Indian airlines plane from Kathmandu to Kandahar. In all this, the response of the Indian authorities has been tardy. Had it stepped in to clear the air immediately after allegations against Hrithik were made, the controversy might not have snowballed to such an extent. It is true that the film star is a private citizen and whether he made the remarks or not is of no interest to the government. But what the authorities should not lose sight of is the fact that there is a strong undercurrent of anti-India feeling in several neighbouring countries, which accuse it of adopting a big-brother posture. This perception is imaginary to a large extent. But the Indian Government has to go out of its way to improve such a distorted image. Small countries have their own sensitivities which need to be respected and assuaged. 


Putting a stop to the drift
Problems demand new responses

by Hari Jaisingh

AS the world moves on to the next millennium, it will be worthwhile to have an honest assessment of where India stands in the comity of nations. Performance assessments have been done even in the past. But such attempts have not given us the desired results because of the increasing insensitivity of the ruling class to the people's plight.

The new politician today is without a sense of shame. He thrives on duplicity, hypocrisy and stuntmanship. He has come to believe that money can buy anything in the corridors of power and beyond.

In league with the politician is the bureaucrat who pretends to know everything without actually understanding it. Most of the country's problems can be attributed to the callous and casual attitude adopted by the ruling clique in collaboration with money-making vested interests which in turn derive their sustenance from mafia groups. What sort of governance can we expect from such a combination?

Ordinary citizens perhaps have no idea of how corrupt elements within the government tamper with rules and regulations and even the records to make crores of rupees at the cost of the public exchequer.

I was once told by an NRI industrialist overseas that the money deposited abroad by the New Class of Indians (not NRIs) could finance at least India's Five Five-Year Plans! This could be a mind-boggling figure if we remember one simple figure of the financial outlay for the Ninth Five-Year Plan. The total outlay for the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1997-2002) works out to Rs 859,200 crore at the 1996-97 prices.

Perhaps, the figure cited above by the NRI entrepreneur is on the low side. We don't have an exact idea in this regard since such banking operations in certain countries are supposed to be a tightly guarded secret. We have seen how difficult it is to get even an elementary information from Swiss banks in several controversial matters.

Loose ends of the system apart, political waywardness has also contributed to the present state of drift. The ruling clique manipulates things to the disadvantage of ordinary citizens. An honest salaried person roughs it out and pays his taxes honestly. Still, he often faces harassment. But what about the top order?

Chief Vigilance Commissioner N. Vittal makes all possible noises about "corrupt" bureaucrats on a selective basis. But does anyone dare point a finger at known "corrupt" ministers and other mighty persons? Why can't ministers,Chief Ministers, parliamentarians, legislators, and other public functionaries be asked to declare their assets truthfully before accepting a public office of profit every year and also at the end of their official assignments? But, who will do it in the absence of political will?

A public office is a matter of trust. It must not be used as a personal fiefdom. We should not only revive the people's faith in the nation's destiny but also actively help the process of ushering in an egalitarian society. A dynamic and responsive system and clean professional atmosphere can make a difference. The present system needs to be revamped. We must not lose time to build a new edifice of accountability at all levels.

What the country lacks is persons of vision with missionary zeal to think and act on right lines for the good of society. Regrettably, the nation is flooded with pygmies who are self-seekers. The pangs of hunger and deprivations of lesser people hardly bother them. Of course, there is no dearth of slogans and rhetorics. But populism is a curse in a democratic polity. It creates false hopes, diverting the country's attention away from harsh realities and hard options.

Instead of coming to the grip of complex problems, the rulers prefer to postpone hard decisions to buy time and peace for themselves. Problems, meanwhile, get more and more complex to the advantage of the disruptionist forces. Any number of examples can be cited to show the heavy price the country has had to pay for the inability of the leadership to correctly assess problems and work out possible solutions. In any case, problems are bound to stay when matters are decided on the basis of caste, vote, note and communal angularities?

Closed minds can offer only limited or no option. The Indian problem is one of following the beaten track. We hardly show any freshness or seriousness about providing the bare necessities of life to the people like potable water, power supply, educational and health facilities and clean environment in the rural and urban centres. The fact that the majority of our countrymen have no access to drinking water and other basic amenities is a poor commentary on the state of the nation.

In fact, our priorities are either grossly faulty or misplaced. So is our approach to basic issues. What can be more tragic than the fact that more than half of the total population still lives below the poverty line.

We should not expect multi-national and foreign agencies to banish poverty from this holy land. The problems have to be faced by us. The foreign agencies can, at best, help the process of development by investing in infrastructure for faster growth. This can be possible if our ministers and bureaucrats are committed to the people's welfare. The harsh reality, however, is that we have turned the whole nation into the Theatre of the Absurd. This is not what we had bargained for. What people want is a clean administration, speedy justice and a responsive and action-oriented system so that yesterday's wrongs are undone promptly. But then everything is in a state of drift.

Have we given any serious thought to the formidable challenge posed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) provisions on agriculture and swadeshi industries? Of course, we must run things efficiently and economically in today's competitive climate. This requires proper guidance and a support system by the establishment of the day.

It is a pity that serious information gaps exist between those living in luxuries and the struggling lot of the population. The priorities of those at the helm have ceased to be people-oriented. The name of the new game is power and money. This is what brings them closer to anti-social elements and criminal gangs.

Mr N. N. Vohra candidly talked about the nexus among politicians, bureaucrats and mafia groups in his report on the Mumbai blasts after a thorough probe. His report is lying somewhere in a cold store and no one seems to be concerned about breaking this nexus. This one example is good enough to show the lack of seriousness on the part of the rulers to take effective steps even in highly critical areas of national life. The same casual approach is visible in security matters. The Red Fort incident should be enough to put us into shame.

Look at parliamentary and state legislature proceedings. The quality of debates in these august chambers, of late, has been poor. What is further shocking is that instead of seriously discussing the people's problems, the parliamentarians on both sides of the political divide are out to politicise even non-issues. Take, for example, the Ayodhya matter. Every year the issue is ritually flogged to arouse communal passions with every political group trying to expand its vote bank.

Even those who swear by secular credentials play the communal card to corner more and more votes from one community or the other. This is shameful, to say the least.

We cannot afford to communalise the polity once again and create conditions for a second partition. Can our politicians not learn simple lessons from history and even from the blunders committed by the leaders of yesterday?

Here the hope lies in the new generation of Indians who are more educated, serious, professional, efficient and globally competitive. The younger lot of youthful professionals overseas and at home have shown that they are different from today's self-seeking class of Indians.

Be that as it may. Despite its grave limitations, the Indian situation is certainly not beyond redemption. India has a functional democracy, a vigilant public, an alert and kicking Press, and a public-spirited judiciary. They have helped keep things under control. An undercurrent of fear runs through the political and official circles. This element of "fear" has to be turned into instruments of accountability and positiveness. We cannot afford to be statusquoists on the negative side. 


Australia’s Refugee Gulag 
by S. P. Seth

RARELY will an Australian newspaper run a story with the headline, “Gulag Woomera”, to highlight the desperate situation of boat refugees in an Australian detention centre. But one national daily, The Australian, did exactly this recently in its weekend edition. Woomera is a God-forsaken place (like other detention centres elsewhere in the country) in the middle of the Australian desert where refugees from some West Asian countries and Afghanistan are detained. Theses centres are like concentration camps.

As The Australian report says, “Woomera has the look and feel of a concentration camp. There are three layers of security: razor wire, barbed wire and steel palisade fencing.” It adds, “... It is a place where refugees are re-traumatised. It is one of the places the Australian Government has chosen to slam shut the door on the world’s refugees.” And it is run by the Australian subsidiary of an American security company, with very little public accountability.

Woomera is in the news because of reports and allegations of sexual abuse of children, assaulting and handcuffing of detainees, force-feeding of hunger-strikers, chemically restraining inmates (by injecting them with drugs such as valium) and so on. Canberra is angry because the refugees have “jumped the queue” to reach Australia. As if a drowning or hounded person has the luxury of queue forming! By definition, being a refugee means that you are not part of a normal and orderly world. Therefore, you go wherever you can make it. And some of these refugees made it to Australia against heavy odds in unsafe boats over vast distances.

Canberra raised the alarm. Reports were circulated in Australia about the imminent influx of thousands more boat refugees from West Asia. Entire villages from some areas were said to be heading in Australia’s direction. Many weren’t even genuine refugees, according to government reports. They were illegally entering Australia to better their economic prospects in the “lucky country”. Therefore, these unfortunate people were damned even before their situation had been properly investigated.

Their case was doomed any way because they are the “wrong” race coming from a region with the worst stereotyping of its people. They were damned twice: by their stereotyping which preceded them and, second, with reports of their criminality and what have you got. Having thus aroused popular hysteria, the government felt free to locate them in the most inhospitable camps, far from any habitation. And a private security company was put to deal with them arbitrarily with no questions asked, so long as they were kept out of prying eyes. But it is not working quite according to the script, as reports of their terrible conditions have trickled out.

Their harsh treatment defies logic and humanity. They were already traumatised and presented no threat to the authorities. They needed understanding and sympathy after their horrible ordeal in refugee camps and, subsequently, during dangerous journey across the seas. A humane approach would have been to release most of them into communal living, pending expeditious determination of their final status as refugees by independent judicial tribunal(s). Sadly, this approach was not adopted.

The government favoured a punitive approach to deter and discourage new arrivals. Therefore, the refugees already in Australia are being made an example for others who might follow. Commenting on their sad situation, Sydney Morning Herald wrote editorially: “The fact that the (detention) centers in question are in such remote desert country—and look more like concentration camps—may reflect a policy of discouraging illegal, undocumented entry to Australia.” It went on to say, “But the centres’ (distant) location also reduces the day-to-day accountability of their management. If there have been serious abuses at these centres, the question must arise whether they should be relocated closer to population centres, where accountability would be stronger.” Indeed!

Even more sensibly, these people should live in community surroundings (women and children, at least) to lessen their sense of vulnerability and trauma. Canberra should know that people do not leave their home in leaky and unsafe boats across distant oceans without the most compelling reasons. And their compulsions are well known as they flee from persecution, torture and even death. There is no need to re-traumatise them on top of what they have already gone through.

Their desperate situation in Australia is best captured in these excerpts from an inmate’s letter quoted in The Australian newspaper:

“Listen! please, just for a moment...

Since long ago we detainees

at the Woomera Detention

Centre have been suffering.

We are human... We have

got blood in our vessels like you.

We have been charged to abuse (our) children. But no one could ever charge them (Australian Government) of imprisoning children for almost a year, to count us like sheeps, to treat us like prisoners and criminals.”

It is no poetry. But it does express poignantly the nightmare of the refugees.

Such callous treatment of the refugees is a sad reflection on a country swearing by human rights. And it is indicative of a deep sense of insecurity and fear. White Australia might one day meet the same fate from across the oceans which visited its Aboriginal people over 200 years ago. The policy is, therefore, believed to be politically popular at home.

Even though Mr John Howard’s conservative government was able to inflict considerable damage on Ms Pauline Hanson’s racist One Nation Party (which targeted Aborigines and Asians) by translating its rhetoric into substantive policy; there is still a floating vote of nearly one million people who stood by her party nationally in the last election. And the government is keen to capture this red-neck political constituency to make sure its electoral victory some time next year.

In such political climate, the refugees are an easy scapegoat. There is, therefore, not much hope for them, apart from some cosmetic measures to take the sting out of media criticism here and there.


Our ancient links with Central Asia
By M.S.N. Menon

ONCE they lived together as brothers — the people on both sides of the Hindukush. They had a common language, common gods and common customs. Varuna, the sky god, was common to both. So were Indra and Mitra.

Yayati married Sarmishta, daughter of an Iranian king. And from her line were born the heroes of the Mahabharata. Kaikeyi (Ramayana) and Gandhari (Mahabharata), too, belonged to the frontier. In the conflict between Vasishta and Viswamitra, the great rishis of the Vedic period, the Iranians took the side of Viswamitra.

But, in course of time, the Hindukush became a dividing line. Was the estrangement over excessive consumption of soma (liquor) or over animal sacrifice? We do not know.

Zorosster called upon the Iranians to give up the Indo-Iranian gods in favour of one god — Ahura Mazda (Ahura: Lord, Mazda: to think). (In the Iranian language ‘S’ is pronounced as ‘H’. So Ahura became in Sanskrit Asura. And Sindhu became Hindu.) The Vedic Aryans adopted Indra as their supreme God.

But to the Iranians, the most holy place was in India. So migrations continued to the land of Haptahindu (Saptasindhu).

The Achaemenians were the first to establish the universal empire. Darius conquered Punjab in 512 BC. It gave him a third of his revenue. So rich was Punjab even in those days.

India was in touch with Sumeria and Assyria. The Old Testament says the Sumerians came from the East. They were not Semitic. They contributed greatly to the civilisation of the entire region, including Egypt. The “Epic of Gilgamesh”, which has survived the ravages of 5000 years, is very similar to our own story of Hrishyashringa.

The Achaemenian power was finally destroyed by Alexander, who razed the capital, Persepolis, to the ground (330 BC). But, soon the Parthians and Sassanians raised their own kingdoms on the ruins of the Achaemenian empire.

In the meantime, Buddhism entered Central Asia. It began to shape its culture, art and thought — above all, the religion of the Central Asians.

Dr S. Radhakrishnan writes: “Buddhist ideas travelled to the shores of the Mediterranean. A strange mingling of ideas belonging to different traditions — Greek, Babylonian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian — was taking place in the century before the Christian era. The life and teachings of the Buddha were known throughout the region.

At the back of this Buddhist expansion was Ashoka, India’s greatest emperor, who sent out missions to Kashmir and Gandhara, and concluded treaties with Antiochus of Syria, Ptolemy of Egypt, Antigones of Macedonia, Mages of Cyrene and Alexander of Epires for the propagation of Buddhism. Ashoka’s rock edicts, found as far out as Kandhahar, carried inscriptions in Greek, Aramaic (the language of Christ) and Kharoshti. Kharoshti was the language of Darius and was spoken on both sides of the Hindukush.

Ashoka gave away Kashmir to the Buddhist fraternity along with 500 viharas (monasteries). Kashmir — thus emerged as the second most important Buddhist centre after Magadha. It was also the centre of Saivism. Both Buddhism and Saivism spread to Central Asia from Kashmir. Central Asian students came to Kashmir — or Taxila, two major centres of learning in this part of the world in those days. Such was the case with Kumarajiva, a native of Kucha (Central Asia). After completing his studies, he went to China, where be became one of the most celebrated translators of Buddhist texts from Sanskrit and Pali into Chinese. Fa Hien, the Chinese pilgrim, was his student. Hieun Tsang records the greatness of Kucha as a Buddhist centre. It was from Central Asia that Buddhism spread to China, then to Korea and Japan.

With the advent of the Sakas (“red faced”) in the second century BC, Buddhism got a big boost. They became ardent Buddhists. Russian historians trace them to the Altai region. They settled down along Western India. The Sakas were followed by Parthians, who settled down in Punjab (1st C AD). Tradition has it that one of the Parthian kings, Gondophenes, met St Thomas, who was on his way to the South of India from Iran. Pahlavi inscriptions were found at Mount St George.

Bamian in Afghanistan became one of the major centres of Buddhism, Saivism and Tantrism. The Bamian caves are as important as Ajanta and Ellora. (They are not safe under the Taliban.)

The Parthians and Sakas were followed by Kushanas. They are said to have come from the Khotan region (border of China). Legend has it that the ruling family of Khotan hailed from India. One of the kings of Khotan married a Kashmiri princess, who carried Saivism with her.

The Kushan empire stretched from the Yamuna to China and included Khotan, Kashgar, Yarkand and Bactria. Its greatest emperor Kashishka (1st C AD) became a Buddhist and held the Fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir, which gave birth to the Mahayana form of Buddhism. A Greek artist in his court was said to be the first to make idols of the Buddha.

Charaka, one of India’s greatest physicians, lived in the court of Kanishka. Central Asia was already familiar with Indian medical practices. Bukhara had emerged as a centre of both Hindu and Buddhist studies. It produced Avicenna, one of the greatest physicians in history.

The Sassanians and Guptas brought Golden Ages to their respective countries. But the Guptas began to decline by 500 AD and by 579 AD the Sassanians also met with the same fate. Naushirvan (531-579 AD), the greatest Sassanian king, established an academy at Jud-i-Shahpur, where there were several Indian teachers and translators.

The Arab conquest of Iran in 651 AD destroyed much of the old civilisation of the region. But the Academy survived. The advent of Huns (the “dread of Europe”) forced many Central Asians to flee to India. But even the Huns fell for the worship of Vishnu in the form of the boar. Mihirakula, the Hun, became an ardent Saivite and did much to torment the Buddhists.

We owe a great deal to Sir Aurel Stein for much of the discoveries of Central Asia’s links with India. Apart from hundreds of Buddhist and Hindu monasteries and temples along the silk route, he found considerable sculptures and paintings of both Buddhist and Hindu origin. Some of the great centres of Indian influence were Miran, Dandan Ulig, Kizil, Kucha, Khotan, Turfan, etc. Chinese annals tell us that there were a thousand Buddhist stupas and temples in Kucha. Kizil, along the northern silk route, had several rock-cut monasteries with hundreds of paintings on the life of the Buddha. The Indian elements were strong in this region. Bazelik is the largest cave complex in the Turfan oasis. The Siva cult was widely prevalent in Sogdian and eastern Turkestan.

Khotan had its Ramayana, but with only two brothers — Rama and Laxman. Strangely, the Valmiki Ramayan also was available.

Craftsmen from Kashmir, as also from China, had their colonies both in Kandhahar and Bukhara. Mughal paintings took their influence from here. It is said that Akbar got his craftsmen from this region.

India has thus given much to these vast regions — in skills and thought — and got back much from there. Above all, the region gave its bravest and most adventurous men to India.


Summer whine
by Bimal Bhatia

ARE you glad that the summer is far behind you? Ecological changes have turned the seasons on their head. That’s how you see the intermingling of summer and monsoons. The summer isn’t officially over till the end of monsoons. You feel comfortable only while it’s raining. And just as the downpour stops you feel the heat again.

Why, what a terrible summer we had this year! Remember how the 14-year-old Karmapa Lama who fled from his monastery in Tibet complained of discomfort soon after he reached Dharamsala. Flummoxed were the Dalai Lama’s physicians who promptly recommended a thorough check-up for the VIP at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGI for short). Elaborate tests at the PGI revealed that there was nothing wrong with the Karmapa Lama, but the warm climate of Sidhbari — a low-lying area of Dharamsala — was affecting his constitution.

The Karmapa, accustomed to the cool clime of his former abode in Tsurphu monastery near Lhasa, found the temperatures of Sidhbari rather unbearable and his constitution revolted. To avoid another bout of exposure to the soaring temperature the Karmapa got shifted to McLeodganj in the higher reaches of Dharamsala where the tall pine trees and the breezy atmosphere were expected to work their charm and keep things under control.

Another VIP who fell a victim to India’s hot summer was General Jean Pierre Kelche, the French Chief of Defence Staff. He came visiting in the peak of summer and had to cut short his trip, ascribed to some urgent work back home. But the grapevine and scribes with the right contacts had it that the General felt a blight “uncomfortable” in the Indian summer, because of which his flight from Agra to Pune had to be diverted to Delhi. After an elaborate check-up at Delhi the VIP was found to have all his cylinders in firing order, but he was soon bound for home to escape the rigours of a blistering heat which he had probably experienced for the first time.

How do lesser mortals in India cope with the summer without whining? Opposite our house is a park with some shady trees. As the sun rises in its trajectory you find some people regularly trooping into the park to rest under the ample shade. Most of these “shady”characters belong to sundry government departments, and come into rest probably after running an odd errand for the burra sahib or the mem sahib. While the big boss wrestles with his files in an airconditioned office and his “bitter” half parties with kitties, the poor man who ran the errand cools it off under the huge tree.

Did you know that one medium-sized tree equals a one-ton air conditioner? So, while the boss in his office and the “kitty” wife might eventually be sweating it out under massive power cuts, the lowly man in the park virtually cools it out and even gets paid for it.

At the end of the day he might even down a glass of jaljeera (a decoction of assorted herbs that cools the body and the mind), normally vended from an earthen pot (matka) to heighten the cooling effect. And after “office” gives over he rushes home to an indulgent wife who further cools the poor fellow with a punkha (hand fan), to compensate him for the hard day he’s had in the sweltering heat!

Does this explain why the more privileged amongst us have a lower boiling point while the underdog has developed the ideal survival strategy to beat the heat.


$ 100 million company sold for just $ 1.48

One of the UK’s boom’s highest-profile bubble stocks imploded on Wednesday when internet consultancy E-xentric sold its business back to its former owners for just $ 1.48. Less than a year ago E-xentric was valued at $ 103 million.

The company, a technology investment vehicle for Punch Taverns boss Hugh Osmond and a number of other well-known entrepreneurs, said it had scrapped plans to become an internet services group and was returning to its previous status of a cash shell.

The announcement represents an about-turn for Mr Osmond and his partners in the venture, who included fellow Pizza Express founder Luke Johnson, internet entrepreneurs Charles Nasser and Edward Spencer-Churchill, son of the Duke of Marlborough.

At the start of the year they announced a radical plan to cash in on booming demand for internet shares by transforming the stock market shell into a hi-tech investment company.

Thousands of private investors made a frenzied dash for the shares as bulletin board postings talked of big deals ahead and the tiny firm’s share price leapt in value by 18 times in a single day.

However, as a more cautious approach towards investing in internet stocks developed over the year, E-xentric shares have fallen back from a high of $ 3.33 to around 17 US cents.

Mr Osmond and his partners are returning to the drawing board. A spokeswoman said: “They have seen how conditions have changed and decided to cut their losses.

“A number of options with the objective of maximising shareholder value are now being considered,” a statement added.

Under the terms of a complex deal, MCA Holdings, which was bought by E-xentric for $ 17.7 million in March, will be sold back to former owners Ian and Linda McAllister and Segun Ogunsheye for $1.48.

The three will return 15m of the 17m E-xentric shares they were given as part of the transaction but will retain an interest in E-xentric through various loans.

E-xentric will be left with cash reserves of $ 57.7 million, which values the company at around 25 US cents per share, the spokeswoman said. Most of the cash is left over from a $ 59 million fund raising in March. (Guardian)

Diet way to health

Getting rid of bread, cutting down on fats and adding fish oil to your diet could help control diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or multiple sclerosis, where the body’s immune system fights its own tissues, researchers suggest.

These and other nutritional remedies have been reported as helping with these autoimmune conditions, Dr Shari Lieberman noted in Las Vegas at the Eighth International Congress on Anti-aging and Biomedical Technologies.

Lieberman, from the University of Bridgeport School of Human Nutrition in Connecticut, presented a review of studies documenting the effects of dietary changes and nutritional supplements on a variety of autoimmune diseases.

“What makes New York bagels so good is that the grain has been genetically modified to increase gluten. This makes for a chewy bagel, but it also puts a tremendous amount of gluten into the system,” Lieberman explained. Citing a study in which rheumatoid arthritis patients improved on a gluten-free diet-no wheat, — rye, oats or barley—Lieberman reported similar results in the patients she treats.

Very low-fat diets, with 20 grams a day or less of fat, have been found to help people with lupus, multiple sclerosis, scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis, Lieberman said. In one 34-year study of multiple sclerosis patients on such a diet, 95% survived and remained physically active. Defaulting from the diet, even after 5 to 10 years adherence, reactivated the symptoms, she said.

Fish oil is another super performer, Lieberman continued. It has been found to be of clinical benefit in a variety of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis and osteoarthritis.

“While dietary changes, such as eliminating gluten, get quick results for rheumatoid arthritis patients, supplements may take 3 months or more. As the inflammation is naturally decreased, patients can often reduce their medications and, over time, some can let go of them altogether,” she explained. (Reuters)

Beggars transmit leprosy

Leprosy continues to spread in India because of the presence of beggars afflicted with the disease, says a study funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Beggars with leprosy are a “hidden reservoir” of infection, says the study carried out in Vellore district of Tamil Nadu and adjoining Chittoor town in Andhra Pradesh.

Of the 193 beggars screened in the study, 58 had leprosy. Among those who had leprosy, 20 per cent were smear positive meaning they can actively transmit the disease.

The fact that new cases continue to appear in India “could, therefore, be due to this constant presence of bacteria in beggars and their transmission to healthy individuals,” the findings, published in a report in the ICMR journal, say.

The study was carried out by PSS Rao, NM Mozhi and MV Thomas of the Schieffelin Leprosy Research & Training centre in Karigiri, Tamil Nadu.

The authors say their study emphasised the need to screen beggars and their contacts regularly, and bring the affected persons under treatment. (PTI)


Spiritual Nuggets

It is desire that tempts a man by its guile. Hence it is virtue to dread that desire.


If a person thoroughly rids his life of all conduct stimulated by desire, then he is sure to have a faultless conduct automatically from the path of life which he chooses to walk.


A person who is free from desire knows no misery, but if desire is present, then there will be a series one after the other.


If desire, the misery of miseries, is completely rooted out, then man can enjoy continuous happiness even in this world.


The nature of desire is that it can never be completely satisfied. If that desire is got rid of then the soul assumes the changeless state of purity.

— The Tirukkural, chapter XXXVII, 363-370.


It is hard to fight against impulsive desire; whatever it wants it will buy at the cost of the soul.

— Heraclitus, Fragments, 51.


Remember, when God's earnest seeker

Pursues the ultimate salvation

He ascends from one summit

to a higher one.

The Lord firmly supporteth him

at every step forward.

God's loving care and guidance

enlightens path.

He is bestowed with divine blessings.

— Rig Veda, 1.10.2


Salvation is not something that man can do; it can only descend as a grace, it can only come as a gift. Salvation is so vast and man is so small that it is not possible for man to manage it. The more man tries to manage it the more entangled he becomes in new kinds of chains... To be really free, to be totally free, to be absolutely free, can only be a fifth from God.

— Osho, Won’t you join the dance?


Everyone talks about bliss but realises it only on meeting the Guru. When the Guru showers His grace, all our sufferings end and we are blessed with the antimony of knowledge.

— Guru Amar Das, Andnd, Guru Granth Sahib, page 917.

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