The replacement of indigenous systems of justice by the colonial British system of jurisprudence radically reshaped the structure of property and other rights in the country. The implications of this implant in the legal landscape continue to be explored in a large literature by historians and economists.Painstaking surveys of the topography of the land were a necessary underpinning of the new legal system. The initial cadastral surveys performed more than one hundred years ago remain the basis for land rights to this very day. The new legal structure spawned a class of Indian lawyers who functioned as its gatekeepers for a bewildered population, and earned fabulous wealth by so doing. Ironically, some members of this class, Motilal Nehru prominent among them, ploughed their wealth into the movement for the eviction of the colonial government, the very means of their enrichment. (via Indira Rajaraman: The Supply of Justice).
The indigenous system
Going by official accounts and history, India did not have any system of justice before the Colonial Raj. The modern Indian State has eagerly embraced the Desert Bloc system of justice, law and legality. Indian people and Indic systems have been neglected and excluded by the Indian State. The Indian State is becoming a captive of Big Business and the Big State – and to keep Indians quiet, it is throwing crumbs and bones (like NREGA) at us.
It is good that parts of the ‘establishment’ do remember that there existed an indigenous system of justice, law and legality – which pre-dated the colonial system. It is a radically different system.
The Great Indian Land Grab continues
The Indian peasant was the first and the only peasant in the world to own his property – till ‘Desert Bloc’ rulers started a 800 year trend of ‘landgrab’. Yes. India does need to re-visit ‘general governance’! We need traditional governance – and not the ‘modern’ colonial baggage, that India has not discarded. We need to give back the lands that were grabbed from the poor Indian peasant and the poor Indian tribal.
And it would serve India very well.
One major consequence is that Westerners can go to any place in the Non-West and, when in legal trouble with local laws, often expect the preferential treatment of not being prosecuted and of being released, with such excuses as “clemency,” “human rights,” “freedom,” and the like, in a way that they do not reciprocate the same preferential treatment to non-Westerners who are in legal trouble in the West. In fact, these non-Westerners are, more often than not, suffer from pervasive discrimination in Western societies, to the extent that not only they are not given any “clemency” but also they often receive harsher punishment than otherwise. (via The Western Neo-Colonial Discrimination against Non-Western Laws – Pravda.Ru).
The writer makes a ‘interesting point – where every non-Westerner in the West is subject to the ‘law of the land.’ Take the cases of Rajarathnam, Anand Jon or Vikram Buddhi. But, since the West is superior to the Rest, Western natives are not subject to laws of the non-Western countries. As this post from Pravda points out, there is an underlying double standard which pervades Western behaviour.
Interestingly, till recently, one had a feeling that the Oil rich Middle East expected much the same!
At the same time he seriously plays down the horrors of Mao’s tyrannical rule, writing that “he remains, even today, a venerated figure in the eyes of many Chinese, even more than Deng Xiaoping” and that the Communist Party “succeeded in restoring its legitimacy amongst the people” and fostered “extremely rapid economic growth,” “despite the calamities of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.” In addition he diminishes the importance of the pro-democracy Tiananmen demonstrations and dissident sympathies, arguing that there is an “apolitical tradition” in China and that “the Confucian ethos that informed and shaped it for some two millennia did not require the state to be accountable to the people.” (via Books of The Times – The Dragon vs. the Eagle in Martin Jacques’ ‘When China Rules The World’ – Review – NYTimes.com).
For this one insight …
The Dragon versus the Eagle analogy is just hot air! A lot of hot air. China is too busy playing footsie with the USA to challenge! But the bit about China being ‘apolitical’ is a gem.
This bit about, China’s “apolitical tradition” in China and that “the Confucian ethos that informed and shaped it for some two millennia did not require the state to be accountable to the people.” This one observation by Martin Jacques’ explains so much about world history – and modern Asian history.
The axis of Confucian-Platonic authoritarian, ‘wise’ rulers, who were not accountable, was (and remains) the overwhelming model for the world. Property rights remained with less than o.1% of the people. Under the CRER principle, (cuius regio, eius religio, meaning whose land, his religion; CRER) even the most personal religious beliefs of the individual were subject to State approval, as per law.
Pareto’s principle … Ha!
Yes – Pareto was wrong.
Rarely (do they at all?) do 20% of the people get to own 80% the national wealth. It is usually about o.1%. Look at America. Less than 300,000 people (from the Forbes /Fortune lists, the Government and the academia, media) who control the US – a population of more than 300 million.
The West scorns the Chinese one-party rule. But how does one more, collusive party in the national polity, in a ‘democratic set-up, become the paragon of political virtue. Did it ever occur to its defendants, that a two-party polity just an illusion of choice and change. But, it was the same lack of accountability – in a more invisible manner?
The only exception to this was the Indic system of polity – where property rights were vested with the user, justice was decentralized (did any Indic king dispense justice?), religion was maya and dharma was supreme. The modern Indian State has acquired the Desert-Bloc-Platonic-Confucian authoritarian principles of the State as parens patriae. So, the power of the Indic ideas is something that India seems to have forgotten, missed and lost!!
In Greater China
In Hong Kong Chinese movies, till the 1990’s, a recurring theme was the Buddhist monk. Until the modernist Jackie Chan goes to America versions started coming out, it was always the wise Buddhist teacher who taught the Brave ‘Chinaman’ to fight against feudal oppression. It was always the Wise Buddhist Teacher who showed the way.
Lee Kuan Yew – a Confucius bhakt
Now this explains why Lee Kuan Yew extols Confucian virtues of Greater Chinese. Is it surprising that the ‘modern’ Chinese Government is so afraid of Buddhist revival that they have put restrictions on the Falun Gong followers from doing breathing exercises in the open. Falun Gong which attracted nearly 10 crore followers in the last 15 years, seems to have made the Chinese Government nervous.
Contrast the faith that the Chinese have in Buddhist teachers with the representation of Church and priests in Hollywood and you will see the contrast. One set has been able to maintain trust and faith for more than 2000 years – and the other set seems to have lost it in less than a 1000 years.
Is it any surprise that the common Chinese loves and venerates the Buddha – and the Chinese Government lays so much emphasis on Confucianism?
- Beijing marks Confucius’s happy return, aged 2,561 (guardian.co.uk)
- Falun Gong wins Vancouver court battle (cbc.ca)
- U.N. envoy defends Falun Gong, “evil cult” for China (reuters.com)
- The Ancient World | China (guardian.co.uk)