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Cash for Honours: 100 Years of British Corruption

March 30, 2012 1 comment

A look at corruption in ‘mother of democracy’ – Britain. The problem is not the British people or British leaders – but the Desert Bloc system of governance.

Tony Blair was one in the long-line of British Prime Ministers who sold peerages for money.  |  A 2006 cartoon by Andy Davey;  source & courtesy - andydavey.com  |  Click for image.

Tony Blair was one in the long-line of British Prime Ministers who sold peerages for money. | A 2006 cartoon by Andy Davey; source & courtesy - andydavey.com | Click for image.

We are the most corrupt

Most Indians assume that!

A few years ago, at a book-promotion event in Kolkatta,

A Britisher in the audience offered that Indians were more honest about being corrupt, naming Mayawati as a favourite, provoking titters all around. (via The Telegraph – Kolkata| Metro | When corruption is a daily habit)

The Britisher may be more right than most Indians.

The British Chapter

In an earlier post, we had examined corruption – American style.

The British Prime Minister during WWI, Lloyd George was involved in numerous scams – the most famous being the Marconi Scam. Just before WWII, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, was involved in another scam, for his role in the BSA motorbike company.

Between WWI and WWII, many questions were raised in the British Parliament – and outside about Neville Chamberlain’s holdings in ICI, shares estimated at 11,000. His son, Francis Chamberlain, had joined the Kynoch Works an old firm with which the Chamberlain family was associated. As also with BSA Company (Birmingham Small Arms) in which he was a director.

And then, there is evergreen, ‘cash-for-honours’ milch-cow. Nearly every Prime Minister has made money by granting titles and Lordships.

Journalists from Murdoch's newspapers paid British policemen for news.  |  Cartoon by Dave Brown from The Independent; source & courtesy -  jeffreyhill.typepad.com  |  Click for image.

Journalists from Murdoch's newspapers paid British policemen for news. | Cartoon by Dave Brown from The Independent; source & courtesy - jeffreyhill.typepad.com | Click for image.

Since a scandal over the honours system might well bring down Tony Blair as Prime Minister, it might be useful to place his record in the area of creating new titles in a wider historical context. Every Prime Minister creates new peerages and knighthoods. Many perforce have gone to wealthy men, and, with virtually every Prime Minister, there has been at least an implication that superlative merit alone was insufficient to explain their elevation. A number of studies of the creation of peerages and life peerages by scholars, including this author, can cast some useful light on how modern Prime Ministers have treated the honours system.

David Lloyd George was, of course, notorious for his peerage creations. How justified is this lasting reputation? In his five and a half years as Prime Minister, Lloyd George created ninety-one new peers, an average of sixteen per year. This was indeed a high total, much higher than the annual average of six new peers created by Lord Salisbury or the eleven created by H. H. Asquith. Nevertheless, there were many extenuating circumstances.

The Parliament which was in place during the First World War was dissolved in November 1918 after having gone eight years without a general election, its life extended by the necessity to avoid an election in the middle of a brutal war. Lloyd George was thus faced by an unusual number of retirements among senior MPs.

Lloyd George also had to honour the senior military commanders of the War. Sir Douglas Haig received an earldom, the official Thanks of Parliament, and a tax-free grant of £100,000, around £6 million in today’s money. Other senior generals and admirals also received peerages, and several others also received substantial tax-free grants for winning the War. It is unnecessary to add that the actual soldiers and sailors received nothing.

However, Haig’s monetary reward demonstrated an historical downward decline: Wellington received £500,000, as well as a dukedom, for defeating Napoleon. Although the leading British military commanders of the Second World War would be regarded by most historians as far better, as military leaders, than those of the Great War, Montgomery et al. received only peerages, not money, which the post-war Labour government had no means or desire to hand out.

The aftermath of the First World War was, in fact, the last time in British history that newly-created peers received money along with their titles. Many would question whether it would not have been more appropriate for the senior commanders of the Great War to have received the short end of a noose rather than a seat in the Upper House, but Lloyd George was obliged to honour them, and none of his critics – certainly none in the Tory party – criticised these titles.

Lloyd George also gave peerages to Empire figures and also to a good many wartime or postwar Ministers in order to bring them into the government, or use them soon after their elevation. For instance, the Canadian Sir Max Aitken became Lord Beaverbrook in 1917 and was given a Cabinet post in February 1918.

Few of these creations caused a public scandal. What we know as the “Lloyd George Honours Scandal” chiefly concerned his very last group of peers in 1922, a list which included William Vestey, the millionaire shipowner and frozen meat king who had emigrated to Argentina to avoid paying taxes, and then returned to England after creating an elaborate international network, with dummy holding companies in France and elsewhere, that guaranteed a virtual tax free income, and Sir Joseph Robinson, a mega-wealthy South African gold magnate so notorious that he was forced to “return” his peerage shortly after it was announced.

Right-wing Tories, looking for an excuse to end the Lloyd George Coalition government, seized on these Honours scandals to undermine the Prime Minister, and the mud has stuck ever since.

Via Maundy Gregory, the honours “bagman”, Lloyd George certainly sold titles – Cardiff became known as the “city of dreadful knights” – although this was nothing new, and it was Lloyd George’s openness, rather than the novelty of this arrangement, which led to scandal. Some peerage-purchasers proved rather clever at what they were doing. Sir James Buchanan, a multimillionaire Scottish whisky distiller, wanted to become Lord Woolavington in the 1922 New Years Honours List, so he signed his cheque “Woolavington”, and dated it “2 January 1922” – no peerage, and the cheque would bounce. He indeed became Lord Woolavington.

Peerage creations continued at roughly the same rate: Winston Churchill created an annual average of eleven per year in his wartime administration of 1940-45, while Clement Attlee created nine per year – until the passage of the Life Peerage Act of 1958, which opened the floodgates. Many pro-Labour figures, or poor men (and, from 1958, women) for whom an hereditary title would be ridiculous, were more than happy to accept a title which ceased with their own demise.

In his 1964-70 government Harold Wilson created no fewer than 154 life peerages (and six hereditaries, all nominated by Sir Alec Douglas-Home at the end of his term). Nothing daunted, Wilson created another 84 life peerages in the two years of this second term in Downing Street from 1974-76. This made an all-up total for Wilson of 234 life peerages, compared with just thirty-four created by Edward Heath from 1970-74. To be sure, Wilson had to create many Labour peers to have a respectable total in the Tory-dominated Lords, but Wilson famously handed out titles like their was no tomorrow, awarding life peerages to his secretary, his solicitor, his doctor, his favourite raincoat manufacturer, and many others in his personal entourage.

Since then, there has been a steady and vast escalation in the number of life peer creations: sixty by James Callaghan; 204 (plus four new hereditaries) by Margaret Thatcher; 172 by John Major. Tony Blair has, however, outdone them all, creating 153 life peers between his election in May 1997 and the end of 1999, plus around 200-250 more since then (and one new hereditary, the Earl of Wessex). (via The Social Affairs Unit – Web Review: Cash for Honours: William D. Rubinstein offers an historical perspective).

The solution to corruption!

How classical Indian rulers, using भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra managed thin governments – without loot, slavery, palaces, bureaucracy, welfare state delivered results.


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Bollywood Images of 65 Years of India’s Independence

How well Bollywood songs captured the mood of India.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Bollywood is sometimes a mirror that captured the prevailing mood of India, in a few lines, set to catchy tune, with crisp lyrics.

For a brief period between 1947-1957, a free India reversed many colonial legacies – laws, policies and systems. By late fifties and early sixties, the first flush freedom from colonialism wore out. The enormity of national reconstruction set in, many a heart sank with sheer enormity of the task. After the 1956 electoral challenge to the Congress, from 1957, began a statist-socialist advance.

Some despaired.

In darkness, some toiled

Did this despair spark the Mohammed Rafi song, ‘Chal ud je ray panchi, Yeh desh hua begaana, चल उड़ जा रे पंछी, के अब यह देस हुआ बेगाना. From Bhabhi (1957) – starring Balraj Sahni, Nanda, Jagdeep, Durga Khote et al. Music was Chitragupt and lyrics were Rajendra Krishan.

The interesting lines were:

ग़म न कर ग़म न कर जो तेरी मेहनत तेरे काम न आयी
अच्छा है कुछ ले जाने से देकर ही कुछ जाना
चल उड़ जा रे पंछी के अब यह देश हुआ बेगाना
चल उड़ जा रे पंछी

Gham Na Kar Gham Na Kar Jo Teri Mehnat Tere Kaam Na Aayi
Achha Hai Kuchh Le Jaane Se Dekar Hi Kuchh Jaana
Chal Ud Ja Re Panchhi Ke Ab Yeh Desh Hua Begaana
Chal Ud Ja Re Panchhi

(Translation-

Do not feel down that your hard work did not pay off
Better that you leave something behind rather take away something
Away, fly away small bird).

All pain, no glory

The logic for the increased role of the Indian State.

It was a stop gap measure for a longer-term movement towards freedom. As the acquisitive State advanced, in the dark night of slow economic growth, shortages, lack of signs of visible growth, the national mood was sombre.

Best captured by this song in Majboor – a 1974 Ravi Tandon film, with some fine lyrics by Anand Bakshi.

एक दिन बिगड़ी किस्मत सवर जायेगी, यह खुशी हमसे बचके किधर जायेगी
गम न कर ज़िन्दगी यु गुज़र जायेगी, रात जैसे गुज़र गयी सोते हुए
नहीं मैं नहीं देख सकता तुझे रोते हुए

ek din bigdi kismat savar jaayegi, yeh khushi humse bachke kidhar jaayegi
gum na kar zindagi yu guzar jaayegi, raat jaise guzar gayi sote hue
nahi main nahi dekh sakta tujhe rote hue

(Translation: –

Our fortunes, now marred, one day; soon will be all decked out,
Happiness will not escape from us,; Grieve not, for this phase in life will soon be over
This dark night too will pass in your untroubled sleep; I can not see you crying).

Then came the dawn

Twenty years later, after the 1977 electoral verdict, steps to decrease the role of state’s started becoming apparent. Aided significantly by a comfortable forex positiondue to Bombay High oil discovery.

A poster for Roti, Kapada aur Makaan  |  Image source & courtesy - do-while.com  |  Click for image.

A poster for Roti, Kapada aur Makaan | Image source & courtesy - do-while.com | Click for image.

I saw Roti, Kapda aur Makaan (1974) many decades ago. The one shot that I remember, that stuck to my mind like glue, was Amitabh doing dand-baithak – a pointless exercize where you go down on your haunches and stand up.

Usually meted as a punishment by an authority, figure, in the year of 1974, after the Oil Crisis, with a nation in shortages, with Bombay High yet to start giving dividends, it was tough times in India.

And Amitabh in that scene represented an Indian going through the motions – while it rebuilt itself. Cinematic history, if ever.

From 1977, the Indian State has ceded space to the people at an increasing pace. The 1991 PVN-MMS Liberalization was a sub-set in that movement.

As for the future, आगे का हाल पर्दे पर!

In the meantime, here is a fine piece of journalism, connecting two minor events of the 1970s-to-India-Now!

Read! Enjoy!

Political slogans often outpace reality. When Rajiv Gandhi was campaigning in the late 1980s, he liked to say “Mera Bharat Mahan [My India is Great].” A TV advertisement put the phrase to a catchy tune. But few Indians had TVs in those days and while millions appreciated the sentiment, not all believed it.

It makes more sense now. Sixty years after independence, India is beginning to deliver on its promise. Over the past few years the world’s biggest and rowdiest democracy has matched its political freedoms with economic ones, unleashing a torrent of growth and wealth creation that is transforming the lives of millions. India’s economic clout is beginning to make itself felt on the international stage, as the nation retakes the place it held as a global-trade giant long before colonial powers ever arrived there. That success may yet act as an encouragement to Pakistan and Bangladesh, still struggling to overcome longstanding questions around Islam’s role in their societies. (via Indian Summer – 60 Years of Independence – TIME).


Governments get into dating game

Governments across the world are actively involved in our private lives – including whether we should have any, some or many children.

If you or family are burden, pollutants, do us a favor. Go, kill yourself. Cartoon by Steve Breen  |  Click for image.

If you or family are burden, pollutants, do us a favor. Go, kill yourself. Cartoon by Steve Breen | Click for image.

Less, more and many

From Moscow to Montreal, Beijing to Berlin, America to Australia, the world is facing a serious population problem.

With the spread of Desert Bloc culture, marriages are becoming less frequent, unstable with shorter spans. Prostitution is booming.

The only people able to face this onslaught without succumbing, are the ‘uneducated’ Indians. They are the only people who rejected Western advice on family size, late marriages.

USA, parts of Europe manage by importing immi-grunts’. From India and Africa, the only regions largely unaffected by the Desert Bloc model.

Africans!! Why have children, at all? If you must, at least have Christian children! Cartoon by Danziger. Source & courtesy - liberty-news.com  |  Click for image.

Africans!! Why have children, at all? If you must, at least have Christian children! Cartoon by Danziger. Source & courtesy - liberty-news.com | Click for image.

Knife-edge

China, Japan are now paying the cost for using the Desert Bloc model on family planning.

The situation is so precarious that in Japan,

Regional governments are now offering programs for single men and women to meet, even helping them hone their relationship-development skills. To learn the nooks and crannies of these publicly sponsored mixers, The Nikkei paid a visit to the Aichi Prefecture city of Tokai, a Nagoya suburb with a population of about 100,000.

In 2010, the city officially pledged to help people find their future spouses. (via Governments get into dating game).

To overcome the inertia of the Indian Government, Western countries are pouring money into Indian NGOs – at the rate of US$2 billion each year.

This is more than the official aid that the whole of Africa gets – or what Egypt or even Pakistan gets.

If you believe in Climate Change, Population Explosion, Family Planning, Birth Control, my advice is ...

If you believe in Climate Change, Population Explosion, Family Planning, Birth Control, my advice is ...

If you are believer

A few months ago, Carnegie group a long time supporter of population control dogma, commissioned a study to find evidence of how massacres and wars helped to preserve environment and ecology balance. The heroes of this study were Genghis Khan, Atilla, etc.

To such people I have a simple message.


The lady doth protest too much …

FEMEN is globalized protest ‘corporation’. For the time being, their protests have content – and style. Wonder who is ‘behind’ FEMEN?

Femen activists preparing for a demonstration |  Image courtesy: rt.com; source: Reuters / Osman Orsal  |  Click for image.

Femen activists preparing for a demonstration | Image courtesy: rt.com; source: Reuters / Osman Orsal | Click for image.

The lady doth protest too much.

Shakespeare said that – and what many governments think about FEMEN.

FEMEN women activists, known for their topless style of protests, have been arrested in more countries, than anyone – in recent history at least. Milan to Istanbul, Davos to Moscow, Kiev to Switzerland, they have protested everywhere.

My favorite FEMEN protest was at Davos. Where über-rich talk as though the Rest of Us don’t exist – or matter.

The other level at which FEMEN protests are working, is against male-standards of how women should deal with their bodies. Clothing and coverings.

Inna Shevchenko, recently, with other

girls – all topless – barged into a polling station, where Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had voted. These young women were questioning the legitimacy of a vote they say is skewed to help the former KGB spy return as Russia’s president. Police officers dragged them out of the room by their hair. This was just another day at work for the activists of provocative Ukranian feminist group, FEMEN.

It was India’s turn to taste their venom, when topless activists sporting nose rings, maang teekas and mehendi climbed the balcony of the Indian ambassador’s residence in Kiev, Ukraine, in January. They knocked down the tricolour and carried banners that read, ‘Ukranians are not prostitutes’. They were reacting to the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs directive to monitor the visa applications of Ukrainian, Russian and Kazakh women aged 15 to 40 to weed out sex workers. Earlier this month, a furious Indian embassy began criminal proceedings against the demonstrators, who now face up to five years in prison, and the possibility of a lock-down of their organisation.

“The reaction is strange,” says 21-year-old Inna Shevchenko, in a telephonic chat from Kiev. Her voice is sombre. That’s strange for someone with enough grit to go head-to-head with the KGB and Minsk police after a demonstration against the authoritative Belarusian president. The police reportedly stripped Shevchenko and two colleagues, doused them in petrol and threatened to burn them, before abandoning the girls in a forest near the village of Beka.

Excerpts from an interview: What is your reaction to India pressing criminal charges against FEMEN demonstrators? The Indian reaction is strange. We were protesting against what they said – that all women of the Soviet Union are prostitutes. And we did nothing wrong with the Indian flag. Their reaction indicates that they are wary of women activists and their opinion. It’s a comment on the mindset of the people working at the embassy. FEMEN’s role is to protect any woman, even if she’s an Indian. (via Off with her tee! – Times Of India; embedded links supplied).

Apparently, the Indian Government’s decision to ‘screen’ Ukrainian visitors to India, before the UP election rankled.

With some Ukranians at least.


The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese – TIME

March 18, 2012 1 comment

TIME magazine archives on the events in Tibet as the Dalai Lama left Tibet. Predictably, CIA and its failures are not mentioned. Not once. India and China are the ‘culprits.’

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, and his mother  |  Source, courtesy & more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,864579,00.html#ixzz1pPPL4MwE  |  The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese - TIME

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, and his mother | Source, courtesy & more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,864579,00.html#ixzz1pPPL4MwE | The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese - TIME

Night had settled upon the roof of the world. With a jingling of harness and the clipclop of hooves, a small caravan wound slowly up the 17,000-ft. pass. Ahead lay the snowy summits of the Himalayas, an ocean of wind-whipped peaks and ranges that have served Tibet as a rampart since time began. Cavalrymen with slung rifles spurred forward; state officials in furs, wearing the dangling turquoise earrings of their rank, sat tiredly in the saddle; rangy muleteers in peaked caps with big earlaps goaded the baggage train up the steep path. As they passed a cairn of rocks topped by brightly colored flags printed with Buddhist prayers, each pious Tibetan added a stone to the mound, murmured the traditional litany: “So-ya-la-so.”

Journey to Safety. As the Dalai Lama and his escort fled by night and hid by day in lamaseries, villages and Khamba encampments, the furious Red Chinese boasted that they had put down the three-day revolt in Lhasa that had served to cover the God-King’s escape. Point-blank artillery fire drove diehard lamas from the Norbulingka, summer palace on the city’s outskirts. Red infantrymen surged into the vast warrens of the Potala winter palace, rounded up defiant monks in narrow passages and dark rooms where flickering butter lamps made Tibet’s grotesque gods and demons seem to caper on the walls. The corpses of hundreds of slain Lhasans lay in the streets and parks of the city, from the gutted medical college on Chakpori hill to the barricaded main avenue of Barkhor. Rifle fire and the hammer of machine guns rattled the windows of the Indian consulate general, whose single radio transmitter is the only communication link with the free world. And Red Chinese columns and planes crisscrossed the barren plateaus and narrow valleys of Tibet in search of the missing Dalai Lama.

Last week word came that the Dalai Lama had reached safety in the village of Towang, just across the Indian border. His two-week march to the frontier, it was said, had been screened from Red planes by mist and low clouds conjured up by the prayers of Buddhist holy men. (via The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese – TIME).

Aroused Asia. The 1956 rape of Hungary by the Soviet Union did not rouse the frustrated rage in Asia that it did in Western Europe and the U.S. White v. white colonialism does not stir Asians much. But the crime against Tibet has opened many Asian eyes. The independent Times of Indonesia warned that Red China was losing what few friends it had left. From Japan to Ceylon, Asians angrily recalled the fine words of Red China’s Premier Chou En-lai at the Bandung Conference in 1955, when he warmly embraced Nehru’s Panch Shila (Five Principles) and specifically promised to respect “the rights of the people of all countries to choose freely a way of life as well as political and economic systems.” India’s press and public demanded that Nehru be at least as forthright in denouncing Red China as he was in denouncing Britain and France during the Suez invasion, and were impatient with his bland impeachments of Peking. In Buddhist Cambodia, a newspaper that often echoes Cambodia’s neutralist royal family urged Red China to withdraw its troops from Tibet and prove “that it respects the hopes of all peoples for liberty and self-determination.”

Buffer State. Over the centuries, the mountain-locked nation of Tibet has often been overrun by invaders—Mongols, Manchus and Gurkhas, but most often Chinese. Whenever China was strong, it would send a garrison to occupy Lhasa. Whenever China was weak Tibetans would drive the garrison out. In 1904, uneasy about Russian encroachments in central Asia, the British launched an expedition from India and captured Lhasa with little difficulty. To keep each other at arm’s length, Britain and Czarist Russia agreed to make a buffer state of Tibet and signed the Convention of 1907 recognizing China’s “suzerainty” over Tibet. No one bothered to define suzerainty, nor did anyone consult the Tibetans.

Large chunks of Tibetan territory disappeared. The provinces of Amdo and Kham were taken by China, Sikkim ended up with India, Ladakh went to Kashmir. Today there are more Tibetans living outside Tibet than in it (1,700,000 to 1,300,000).

The Yellow Hat. The nation’s sole defense over the centuries was the Three Precious Jewels of Tibetan Buddhism: the Buddha, the Doctrine and the Community. Power lay with the contending monks and noblemen. The Red Hat sect, which allows its lamas to marry, was gradually overborne by the celibate Yellow Hat sect. This was made official in 1557 when a Mongol khan gave the seal of rulership to the leading Yellow Hat monk and named him Dalai (Ocean of Wisdom) Lama. The fifth Dalai Lama is famous for building the vast Potala. He also felt the need to honor his favorite teacher by naming him the Panchen (Teacher) Lama, and put in his keeping Tibet’s second largest city, Shigatse. He thus created a rivalry that has plagued Tibet ever since. Generally, the Dalai Lama has had the support of whatever power is ruling in India, and the Panchen Lama of the ruling power in China. (via The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese – TIME).

The Search. The present Dalai Lama’s predecessor was one of the greatest of his line. He lived long and governed well. In 1933, warned by the State Oracle that his end was approaching, he summoned a photographer all the way from Nepal to take a final picture, and shortly thereafter this most sacred Living Buddha shed the garment of his body in order to assume another. While by Lamaist teaching his soul went to dwell for 49 days in the famed Lake Chö Kor Gye before taking up residence in a newborn infant, his corpse was embalmed by being cooked in yak butter and salt, its face painted with gold, and the mummy seated upright facing south in a shrine of the Potala.

Who was the newborn infant in whom his soul was reincarnated? A four-year search began, and became another of the endless legends of Tibet. The regent, who ruled the state during the interregnum, journeyed to Lake Chö Kor Gye and, after gazing into its mirrored waters, reported a vision of a three-storied lamasery whose golden roof was necked with turquoise, and a winding road that led to a gabled farmhouse of a type unknown to Lhasans. Search parties went out in all directions without success. Finally the oracle of Samye monastery, Tibet’s oldest, went into a trance, recommended that the search be extended to the Chinese province of Tsinghai, whose Amdo region is largely populated by Tibetans.

In Tsinghai. the priestly caravan was met by the ninth Panchen Lama, who had fled to China after difficulties with the 13th Dalai Lama. Near death himself, the Panchen Lama was not bitter, and suggested the names of three young boys who might be possible candidates. The first child had already died when the lamas reached him; the second ran screaming at the sight of them. At the home of the third child, on the shores of fabled Lake Koko Nor, the monks were struck dumb. Just as in the regent’s vision, there was a peasant house with a gabled roof, there was a winding road and, beyond, a three-storied lamasery whose golden dome sparkled with turquoise tiles.

As the awed monks approached the farmhouse, a small boy rushed toward them from the kitchen crying, “Lama! Lama!” His name was Lhamo Dhondup; he was two years old; and one of his brothers was already a Living Buddha at Kumbum monastery. Interrogated, the child gave the correct title of every official in the party, even picking out those who were disguised as servants. The second test required that he examine duplicate rosaries, liturgical drums, bells, bronze thunderbolts, and teacups, and select the ones that had belonged to him in his previous life as the 13th Dalai Lama. He did it with ease. Overjoyed, the lamas also found that the child had the required physical marks: large ears, and moles on his body that represented a second pair of arms. Then, in the final test, he was offered a choice of identical walking sticks. To the monks’ horror, little Lhamo chose the wrong one—but at once threw it away. Seizing the right stick, he refused to be parted from it. (via The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese – TIME).

Finding the Dalai Lama proved easier than getting him home to Lhasa. The Chinese warlord of Tsinghai demanded $30,000 before he would let the boy leave. Glumly, the lamas paid it and set out for Tibet. They were stopped at the border. The warlord wanted more money, and it took two years of negotiations and a further payment of $90,000 before the Dalai Lama, by then four years old, could go in triumph to the palace of Potala.

Polygyny & Prayer. The Tibet he would one day rule is a preserved relic of ancient oriental feudalism. Twice as large as Texas, lying in the very heart of Asia, it is a land of mountains and craterlike valleys that seem to have been ripped from the moon. Its people are handsome, cheerful and indescribably dirty. About four-fifths of them work to support one-fifth, who are shut up in lamaseries. What little land is not owned by the monks belongs either to the Dalai Lama or to about 150 noble families, who have kept their names and acres intact down the centuries by a mixture of polygyny and polyandry. To safeguard their ancestral estate, three brothers will often share a single wife, and all children are considered to be fathered by the eldest of the brothers. Recently, a highborn Lhasa woman was simultaneously married to a local nobleman, to the Foreign Minister of Tibet, and to the Foreign Minister’s son by another wife.

Religion is lived by all the people. Hundreds of lamaseries house thousands upon thousands of monks and nuns whose days are spent in meditation and prayer. There are nearly as many Living Buddhas as there are lamaseries, including one female incarnation whose name translates as “Thunderbolt Sow.” Prayer is everywhere, on the lips of men and on flags and bits of paper stamped with woodblock imprints of the sacred words: “Om mani padme hum [Hail, the jewel in the lotus).” The phrase flutters from tall poles outside villages, from trees and cairns; it is stuffed inside the chortens’ hollow towers at crossroads, and revolves constantly in the prayer wheels in every temple, nearly every house. There is gold in Tibet that cannot be mined for fear of offending the gods of earth, though panning gold from the river beds is permitted.

When a Tibetan dies, his body is carried to the top of a mortuary hill, hacked into pieces by body breakers and left to be picked clean to the bone by scavenger birds and beasts. Tibetan sons keep their fathers’ skulls and use them as drinking cups out of filial piety. On stormy days, when blizzards smother the high mountain passes, lamas cut out paper horses and scatter them to the winds to carry help to any poor traveler foundering in the deep snow. Meeting a stranger, a Tibetan sticks out his tongue in friendly greeting. (via The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese – TIME).

Defender of the Faith. For the four-year-old Dalai Lama, arrival in Tibet meant an end to childhood. He was enthroned at Lhasa in 1940 and endowed with many names—the Tender, Glorious One, the Holy One, the Mighty of Speech, the Excellent Understanding, the Absolute Wisdom, the Defender of the Faith. He sat through the hours-long ceremonies without complaint, a slim, grave-eyed boy with protuberant ears.

The Dalai Lama’s peasant family came with him to Lhasa, and his father was made a noble, but he saw little of them. His days were spent with monkish tutors, in learning the Tantric texts of Lamaism and the complex religious ceremonials. At night he went to sleep in the enormous, fortresslike Potala, and could hear the palace gates close harshly and the ringing shouts of the watchmen as they marched through the long, twisting corridors. Without playmates or attending parents, the Dalai Lama matured early, and at 14 he visited Lhasa’s great monasteries of Drepung and Sera to engage in religious disputation with their learned abbots. This was a critical moment, for upon his intelligence and agility of mind would depend the future balance of power. He would not be deposed should he fail the examination, but he could be turned into a puppet—a Living Buddha who was easily manipulated by shrewd and able monks.

At Drepung monastery thousands of red-robed lamas crouched on their haunches in a graveled courtyard while the 14-year-old Dalai Lama preached to them on the Tantric texts in a clear, boyish voice, but with the composure and assurance of an adult. A Tibetan-speaking Westerner was there, an Austrian named Heinrich Harrer, who had escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp in India and painfully made his way to asylum in Lhasa. The debate that followed between the abbot and the Dalai Lama was a genuine contest of wits, says Harrer, in which the God-King was “never for a moment disconcerted,” while the venerable abbot “was hard put to hold his own.” (via The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese – TIME).

But the Dalai Lama was still too young to govern, and his state was run for him by regents. Two of them quarreled, and Lhasa was rocked by a brief civil war in 1947, in which howitzers were used to end the defiance of the monks of Sera lamasery. More important to Tibet and the Dalai Lama was another civil war: that in China. As Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists were driven from the mainland to Formosa, it was inevitable that the Reds would soon attempt to assert the Chinese suzerainty that had been largely ineffectual for nearly 40 years.

In 1950 the test came. When a Red Chinese “liberation” army was poised on the Tibetan frontier, the nomad Khamba tribesmen asked Lhasa if it intended to fight. The Dalai Lama’s advisers could not make up their minds. The fortress of Chamdo surrendered with scarcely a shot fired, and the Khambas decided that Lhasa had lost its nerve, and made no move to stop the Reds.

The young Dalai Lama was seldom consulted in such matters. He passed his time in study and in a new absorption in Western gadgets. He took many photographs, often wandered on the terraces of the Potala armed with a telescope with which he could examine the busy life of his city without ever being permitted to join in it. Each spring he traveled in solemn procession through ranks of bowing, weeping people to the summer palace; each autumn he solemnly returned to the Potala. The Austrian Harrer tutored him in Western science and technology, found in the Dalai Lama an insatiable urge for learning, a fascination with modern matters such as the construction of jet planes, but a total acceptance of his own godhead. Once, remarking on his previous incarnation as the 13th Dalai Lama, he said musingly: “It is funny that the former body was so fond of horses and that they mean so little to me.”

As the Red Chinese pushed toward Lhasa, the Tibetan National Assembly sent an urgent plea to the United Nations for help against the aggressors. It was rejected with the pious hope that China and Tibet would unite peacefully. The uncertain Tibetan government called on the State Oracle to decide what the Dalai Lama should do. He urged flight.

Before leaving Lhasa, the Dalai Lama was hastily invested with full power as the ruler of Tibet and the regency abolished. In command of his country for the first time, just as it seemed on the point of dissolution, the Dalai Lama withdrew to the Indian border but did not cross over. Since it was clear that no power on earth was interested in aiding Tibet, the God-King opened negotiations at a distance with Red China. In May 1951, a 17-point agreement was signed between the two nations: Red China agreed that Tibet could retain autonomy and promised no change in the Dalai Lama’s status, function or power. Tibet surrendered control of its foreign relations to Red China. (via The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese – TIME).

Journey to Peking. Returning to Lhasa, the 17-year-old Dalai Lama received the Red emissaries with frank curiosity. Much of what they proposed—schools, roads, hospitals, light industry—met his approval. Many Tibetans welcomed the break with the feudal past, argued: “We must learn modern methods from someone—why not the Chinese?” The Dalai Lama made a six-month visit to Mao Tse-tung’s new China, listened patiently to lectures on Marxism and Leninism, saw factories, dams, parades. Back in Tibet, Red technicians set to work. Some 3,000 Tibetan students were shipped off to school in Red China. But things went wrong from the start. The hard-driving Red cadres filled with Communist zeal made little impression on the individualistic Tibetans, who felt that the inner perfection of a man’s soul was more important than an asphalt surface on a road. Sighed the Dalai Lama: “China and Tibet are like fire and wood.”

His words were proved true in the border province of Kham, where the Reds had been longer in control. The lamaseries of Kham were looted of their treasure and their land collectivized. Nomad Khamba tribesmen were driven from the pastureland they had used for centuries. Tribal chiefs resented their loss of power te the commissars. The Khambas, great shaggy men often 6 ft. tall, with leather boots, 3-ft. swords and rifles they are born and die with, fought back. Snipers bushwhacked lone Red couriers on the new road to Lhasa. Khamba bands ambushed military convoys. The embittered monks drove off the Chinese farmers sent to take over their land. To teach them a lesson. the Chinese Reds sent bombing planes and leveled the intransigent lamaseries.

For four years the guerrilla war raged along the border. More and more dispossessed Khambas crossed over into Tibet proper and roused their fellow tribesmen in the Tsangpo valley to join the revolt. In Lhasa, monks grumbled at the religion-destroying teachings of the Red Chinese; Tibetans complained at soaring prices and the confiscation of grain and wool. The Reds applied pressure on the Dalai Lama to quiet his people. To an anxious crowd assembled in the Norbulingka gardens, the God-King said blandly: “If the Chinese Communists have come to Tibet to help us, it is most important that they should respect our social system, culture, customs and habits. If Chinese Communists do not understand the conditions and harm or injure our people, you should immediately report the facts to the government, and we can immediately ask that the guilty ones be sent back to China.”

When the rebel Khamba tribesmen began attacking Red outposts within 40 miles of Lhasa, the Red commander demanded that the Dalai Lama prove his “solidarity” by ordering his 5,000-man bodyguard against the rebels. It was a shrewd move, for in the past Lhasa had had its own troubles with the Khambas, who recognized the spiritual rule of the Dalai Lama but had a habit of killing his tax gatherers and robbing caravans. The God-King solved it neatly: he sent a message to the Khambas saying cryptically that “bloodshed was not the answer,” but flatly refused to lend Tibetan troops on a punitive expedition. (via The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese – TIME).

Unable to break the Dalai Lama’s will, the Red commander decided on a show of strength. Last month, while Lhasa was still crowded with monks, pilgrims and peasants who had attended the New Year’s Festival, the Red general sent a curt note ordering the Dalai Lama to appear, alone, at Communist headquarters.

Lhasa was appalled. It was unthinkable that a message should go directly to the Dalai Lama instead of being reverently submitted through his Cabinet. It was even worse to demand that the Living Buddha attend a meeting alone without his ceremonial train of senior abbots and court officials. On hearing the news, the Dalai Lama’s mother burst into tears. Thousands of weeping women surged around the Indian consulate general and begged the consul to accompany them while they handed a protest petition to the Red Chinese. The monks of the city’s three great lamaseries prepared to die before letting the Dalai Lama be taken from them. Hidden stores of arms were passed out to the furious populace. Khamba tribesmen with their rifles, swords and lean, savage dogs began to filter into Lhasa. The nervous Chinese set up machine-gun posts, trained artillery on the Potala and the Norbulingka palaces.

On March 17 the Dalai Lama, his mother, sister and two brothers, guarded by a fanatic escort, slipped out of Lhasa and moved north, where there were few Chinese patrols. Traveling only at night, the party carefully circled the city and headed south toward the Indian border. On March 19 the fighting started in

Lhasa, and only after three days, when the city’s whitewashed houses, its palaces and lamaseries were a smoldering shambles, did the Red Chinese realize they had been outwitted, and set up the propaganda cry that the Dalai Lama had been kidnaped and was being held “by duress.”

Asian Algeria. The smashing of the revolt in Lhasa was as brutal as the action of Soviet Russian tanks in Budapest. But Tibet is not another Hungary: it is more likely to become Red China’s Algeria, a festering war to the knife that can be neither won nor lost. The Communist garrisons should be able to hold the cities and the main roads. They can even find a handful of Tibetan collaborators, like their tame puppet, the tenth Panchen Lama, a wan young man of 22 who is unable to control the monks of his own lamaseries. But the Red troops, estimated at 60,000-80,000, must be supplied from a base 70 miles distant, over a single, hazardous road that can be easily cut by Khamba guerrillas.

At week’s end the Khamba rebels were reportedly joined by equally fierce Amdowa and Golok tribesmen, spreading the fires of revolt the length and breadth of Tibet, and putting into the field against the Chinese Reds an estimated 100,000 warriors, who were carrying the fight to the Chinese provinces of Szechwan and Tsinghai as well as Tibet proper. The Red radio protested plaintively that “reactionary elements” from China itself had joined the battle.

The rest of the world cheered the rebels and denounced their oppressors but made no other move. India, the biggest free neighbor, was giving shamefaced support to Premier Nehru’s reiterated insistence that “India was anxious to have friendly relations with Red China.”

When the Dalai Lama this week finally made his way through the jungles of Assam to the airfield at Bomdila, he was welcomed by officials of the Indian government before being flown to a mountain resort at a safe distance from the Tibetan border—so as not to give offense to Red China. He will be inundated by the good wishes of the free world, but for the foreseeable future, the Dalai Lama and 3,000,000 Tibetan patriots can only put their trust—as their ancestors did before them —in the Three Precious Jewels of Tibetan Buddhism: the Buddha, the Doctrine and the Community. (via The Dalai Lama Escapes from the Chinese – TIME).


Readings from January 1931 – Time Magazine

Time magazine nominated Gandhiji as Man of The Year – even as the First Round Table was in the air. Interesting extracts from the reportage of that period.

"Saint Gandhi": Man of the Year  | 1930  |  Time magazine cover; Monday, Jan. 05, 1931

"Saint Gandhi": Man of the Year | 1930 | Time magazine cover; Monday, Jan. 05, 1931

“Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930Monday, Jan. 05, 1931

Curiously, it was in a jail that the year’s end found the little half-naked brown man whose 1930 mark on world history will undoubtedly loom largest of all. It was exactly twelve months ago that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Indian National Congress promulgated the Declaration of Indian Independence (TIME, Jan. 13). It was in March that he marched to the sea to defy Britain’s salt tax as some New Englanders once defied a British tea tax. It was in May that Britain jailed Gandhi at Poona. Last week he was still there, and some 30,000 members of his Independence movement were caged elsewhere. The British Empire was still wondering fearfully what to do about them all, the Empire’s most staggering problem. (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

A British journalist of standing lately revisited India and reported his finding to North American Newspaper Alliance. Journalist Henry Noel Brailsford is a graduate of Glasgow University, where he remained for a time as assistant professor of Logic. Later he was a leading writer of the Carnegie International Commission in the Balkans (1913), and editor of the New Leader (1922-26).

“In India I saw what no one is likely to see again,” reported Briton Brailsford. “Bombay obeyed two governments. “To the British government, with all its apparatus of legality and power, there still were loyal the European population, the Indian sepoys, who wear its uniform, a few of the merchant princes, and the older generation of the Moslem minority. “The rest of Bombay’s population has transferred its allegiance to one of the British Government’s too numerous prisoners: Mahatma Gandhi.”

Carefully Briton Brailsford described the system of parallel government in Bombay, whereby members of the Indian National Congress themselves marshal and police their demonstrations. He reported that the Gandhiwomen who picket shops selling British goods, and who fling themselves down to be trodden on by any Indian determined to enter, will stand aside for occidental shoppers. “The shopkeepers themselves signed a requisition to the effect that they made no complaint against this peaceful picketing, and for a time there were few arrests.”

In and around Bombay, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Benares, Mr. Brailsford examined many Indian men and women bearing “wounds on teh feets or bruises on the stomach, made with the butt end of a rifle . . . one man with a terribly swollen arm, fractured or dislocated, hanging in a sling . . . a woman [with] a badly swollen face caused by a blow.”

In the opinion of Briton Brailsford, “cold English brains” devised the system whereby bands of native police, especially in the rural districts, set upon individual Indian men & women and beat them. “The execution [of this plan] was left to hotter heads and rougher hands,” notably to Mohuntal Shah, chief Indian official of the Borsad Taluka in Kaira District, who, Mr. Brailsford reports, has not only presided at numerous pouncings and beatings, but also “occasionally assisted with a heavy walking stick.”

Individual beatings are applied, in the main, to extort from the victim his land tax. Mr. Brailsford traveled through district after district where the peasants had taken and kept this vow: “We will pay no taxes until Gandhi is released from jail.” (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

millions of individual Indians are taking individual beatings which they could, escape by paying what His Majesty’s Government call, quite accurately, “nor-mal taxes.” Physical extortion, even of taxes, is in law virtually everywhere a crime. Briton Brailsford reports that the Indian agents of the British Government have pursued tax evaders out of British India into the native State of Baroda and beaten them there. This is a crime for which the Man of the Year in Yerovila Jail at Poona is to blame. He is to blame because, although His Majesty’s Government have got him in a jail staffed by British jailers, they have not yet stopped him from producing writings which are smuggled out somehow, week after week, to his people.

What Chance Success?

The Viceroy of India last week admitted at Calcutta that “some concessions” will have to be made to the Indian Nationalism, which for twelve months he has been trying to stamp out. Meantime, in London, before adjourning for the holidays, the Indian Round Table Conference decided “in principle” that the upper and lower houses of the new Indian Legislature which they are trying to create, shall be called the “Senate” and .the “House of Representatives.”

Stock reasons why Britain must hold India: 1) “she cannot relinquish her trust”; 2) deprived of the Pax Britannica, India would be torn with Hindu-Moslem civil war; 3) “Britain is the only sure defense of the Untouchables,” some 45,000,000 souls; 4) politically Indians are too “childish” to rule themselves. In India Last Week:

¶ A newspaper straw vote among the occidental community in Bombay brought 1,000 ballots, 830 of them for granting India “dominion status.”

¶ The Indian National Congress maintained its grip on the entire native market for foreign cloth in Bombay (several hundred shops), which has been closed for six months. Nevertheless Bombay (chief commercial city) and Bombay Presidency are not India, and imports to the entire continent fell only 25% during the first eight months of 1930. Mr. Gandhi’s boycott is credited with reducing imports (i. e., sales by Britain) 5%, the rest of the decline, 20%, being charged to “Depres-sion.” (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

¶ Strikes and mass demonstrations have decreased in frequency throughout India, but in the punjab (north) and Calcutta (east), the districts furthest from Gandhi-land proper (the Bombay Presidency), the Government faces much spontaneous violence: assaults, attempted assassinations, assassinations of British officials, particularly the military. The British Inspector General of Prisons in Bengal (east) was recently assassinated. (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

If. finally, the Round Table breaks down, enough spontaneous violence is expected to give His Majesty’s Government enough provocation to use at strategic points the weapon of massacre, so effective when Brigadier-General Dyer sprayed with machine gun bullets and killed some 400 Indians at Amritsar in 1919. General Dyer received the censure of the House of Commons by a vote of 230 to 129, was endorsed by the House of Lords 129 to 86, and finally accepted from the Morning Post a large sum of money spontaneously made up by individual Britons. (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

History at La Martiniere

La Martiniere School, where Akhilesh Yadav will be sworn in to become CM of UP was the scene of a ferocious battle between Indian soldiers fighting to throw out the British.


Image by Felice Beato in 1858 of La Martiniere Lucknow  |  Street by Street, building by building, Indian soldiers fought for Lucknow. |  Click for image.

Image by Felice Beato in 1858 of La Martiniere Lucknow | Street by Street, building by building, Indian soldiers fought for Lucknow. | Click for image.

May 3, 2002: Mayawati’s swearing-in ceremony held at La Martiniere ground.

In 1980s and early 1990s, not more than 1,200 persons were invited. Senior government officials, political party functionaries and a few guests were invited for the function. But now, leaders want at least their MLAs and party workers to attend the event.” Another official from the secretariat administration department (SAD) that plays a key role in organising the event and bears the entire cost agreed. “It’s a grand affair,” he stated.

As per the estimates gathered from the sachivalay department, around Rs 60 lakh is being spent in readying the venue. “A normal shamiyana for 400 guests in a wedding ceremony costs at least Rs 1 lakh. The ‘tentage’, lights, sound, fans could cost about Rs 1 crore for 10,000 guests,” admitted an engineer at LDA. Not only this, around Rs 1 crore would go in paying rent for holding the event on La Martiniere ground. Actually, the use of the ground is managed by La Martiniere College board whose ex-officio chairman is a Justice of the Allahabad High Court.

At present, Justice Umakant Singh holds the position. When Lucknow administration approached the college management for using the place, the board convened its meeting. Considering that the preparations for the event had begun, the board said that the occasion should be treated as a one-time exception. It gave the permission but asked the organisers to pay Rs 1 crore as compensation for using the place to which the administration agreed. “The cost will be borne by the state government,” said Anil Sagar, DM, Lucknow. (via Swearing-in assumes ‘grand’ proportions – The Times of India).

150 years ago

More than 150 years ago, Indian soldiers paid with their lives, attempting to rid India of the young British Raj. After spending crores on this event, at this venue, for the swearing in ceremony of Akhilesh Yadav, it may be worthwhile to remind ourselves that some very valuable blood was shed for this to happen now.

Those who died, battled for a future. A better future, they could not live to see.


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