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Ancient caste system not attributed to one’s birth: Amish Tripathi


New Delhi: When India is still in agony about the Dalit research scholar’s suicide, the best-selling author Amish Tripathi is trying to convey the message that in ancient India the caste system was not rigid and was not attributed to one’s birth.

Tripathi, who deftly weaves in threads on women’s empowerment and the caste system in his interpretations of Indian mythologies, preferred to reserve his judgement on the Hyderabad University issue since it’s under investigation.

But he concedes that oppression continues despite the progress country has made in the last almost 70 years since independence.

Rohith Vemula’s death on January 17 in Hyderabad University after being suspended for allegedly assaulting an ABVP leader has resulted in mass protests across India.

“As far as specific incidents are concerned, learning from the Delhi church attacks and Ranaghat nun rape case (in West Bengal), it turned out the incidents were not how they were portrayed; so we should stay calm and wait for an investigation to conclude.

“At a broader level, there is no doubt oppression does take place. We have made improvements in the last 70 years but there is still a long way to go,” Tripathi, who burst onto the scene in 2010 with the popular Shiva trilogy, said in an interview during the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet.

The banker-turned-writer had some huge success like “The Immortals of Meluha”, “The Secret of the Nagas” and “The Oath of the Vayuputras”  based on Shiva trilogy. His latest “Scion of Ikshvaku” is the first book in the Ram Chandra series – his take on the Indian epic Ramayana. The second book is in progress and talks are on for movie adaptations.

“In my books, I actually speak about the caste system. If you see the genetic research that is coming out, it’s very clear the caste system was not based on birth. In ancient times it was not rigid,” the 41-year-old IIM-Calcutta alumnus contended.

As examples, he says Maharishi Valmiki who wrote the Valmiki Ramayana was not Brahmin born.

“The Maharishi who composed the Mahabharata, who compiled the Vedas, was not born a Brahmin, he was born to a fisherwoman. He became a Brahmin… not just a Brahmin… he became a rishi (sage),” Tripathi underlined.

In addition to the textual proof, he also lays strong emphasis on current genetic research.

“Research shows till around 1,900 to 2,000 years ago, there was heavy intermingling in India between all groups. That’s the first sign of caste system… there is no inter-marrying. Something happened between 1,500 to 2,000 years ago when the inter-marrying stopped. So some people assume that is when the caste system became rigid.

“In ancient times, most of the evidence points to the fact that the caste system was actually not rigid and that is what I am trying to bring out in my books. It was not based on birth. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna clearly says: I created the four varnas based on ‘guna’ and ‘karma’ based on your attributes and on your karma, not on birth.”

Ascribing his knowledge of mythology and scriptures to his family (his paternal grandfather was a pandit and taught at Banaras Hindu University, his maternal grandmother was also a teacher), Tripathi admits his love for India doesn’t mean he can turn a blind eye to issues that need to be dealt with.

“I am a deep patriot. I love my country but I also believe patriotism should not blind us to the things that need to be improved and, of course, one doesn’t like to be told about our country by Westerners, most of them likely have no love for our country; they just want to come and judge us.

“There’s a difference in the attitude of someone who deeply loves his or her own country and there are things which he feels needs to improve,” Tripathi signed off.(IANS)

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Chinese Authorities Put “Separatism” Charges on Mongolian Writer

Chinese government policies, the group said, are "based on deep-seateddiscrimination that characterizes Mongolian pastoralism as 'backward,archaic, unscientific and uncivilized' way of life and advertises the Chinese way of life as 'advanced, civilized and scientific'.

Ethnic Mongolian historian and author Lhamjab A. Borjigin, 74, who is facing for prosecution for "separatism" and "sabotaging national unity," in undated photo. RFA

Chinese authorities in the northern region of Inner Mongolia have tried an ethnic Mongolian writer in secret on “separatism” charges, a rights group said on Friday.

Lhamjab A. Borjigin, 75, stood trial on April 4 on charges of “separatism” and “sabotaging national unity,” the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) reported.

“The trial started at 9:00 a.m. on April 4 and ended around 12:00 p.m. at the Shiliinhot Municipal People’s Court,” the group quoted a recorded audio message from Lhamjab as saying.

“None of my family members were allowed to attend,” he said. “I was denied the right to bring my lawyer to defend myself.”

A native of Heshigten Banner, a county-like division in Inner Mongolia, and a member of the state-backed Shiliingol League Literary Association, Lhamjab has been a prominent voice in ethnic Mongolian culture in China, as well as documenting the region’s oral history.

He specializes in survivor testimonies of the political violence and social chaos of the Cultural Revolution, publishing his book “China’s Cultural Revolution” in 2006.

Lhamjab said he had refused to speak Chinese during the courtproceedings, and had “reluctantly” been allowed to bring an interpreter into the courtroom.

“It was a typical closed-door trial,” Lhamjab said. “Only eight people, namely three judges, three procurators, myself and my interpreter were present in the small courtroom with the door tightly closed.”

Lhamjab has rejected the charges pending against him, saying that he only wrote the historical truth.

The authorities began confiscating copies of the book and placed Lhamjab under house arrest on July 11, 2018.

Case directly ordered by regional government

The court has yet to announce its verdict in the case, which was brought under direct orders from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regiongovernment, according to Lhamjab.

“When the [prosecutors] accused me of engaging in ‘national separatism,’ ‘sabotaging national unity’ and ‘illegal publication and illegal distribution,’ I defended myself by asking whether those who committed the genocide in [Inner] Mongolia or the ones like myself who talked about this genocide should be considered [to be] ‘sabotaging national unity’,” he said.

“The [prosecutors] candidly told me that it is not up to them,” Lhamjab said. “It was because the Autonomous Region Public Security Bureau and State Security Bureau are pressuring them to prosecute me on these charges.”

Lhamjab said he had maintained his innocence throughout the trial, andrefused to plead guilty to any of the charges.

“I am determined to appeal to the highest court because this is an unjust trial not only against me but also against our entire Southern Mongolians who have been subjected to a series of mass killing and political persecution but are not even allowed to speak of these atrocities.”

For his book, Lhamjab gathered oral testimonies of survivors of violence against ethnic Mongolians during the Cultural Revolution, a task that took him 20 years.

The book accuses the ruling Chinese Communist Party of state-sponsoredgenocide in the region, detailing torture techniques and detentions in a brutal campaign that claimed the lives of at least 27,900 people andimprisoned and tortured 346,000.

Lhamjab published the book unofficially, at his own expense, after state-run Chinese publishing houses refused to publish it.

“The book became popular among Mongolians not only in [Inner]Mongolia, but also in the [neighboring] independent country of Mongolia,” SMHRIC said.

Destroying nomadic civilization

Last year, an abridged audio version of the book went viral among ethnic Mongolians on Chinese social media platforms, especially WeChat, the group said.

The authorities began confiscating copies of the book and placed Lhamjab under house arrest on July 11, 2018.

The writers’ group PEN America has called on Beijing to drop the charges and release Lhamjab.

Ethnic Mongolians in exile have repeatedly also called on Chineseauthorities to end human rights violations, systematic andinstitutionalized discrimination against ethnic Mongolians within China’s borders, as well as longstanding policies aimed at ending their traditional, nomadic way of life.

In a submission to the International Convention on the Elimination ofRacial Discrimination (CERD), which is currently reviewing Beijing’s record, SMHRIC called on the Chinese government to release all ethnic Mongolian prisoners of conscience, including members of herding communities who have been “arbitrarily arrested, detained, and imprisoned for defending their grazing land from illegal appropriation.”

The group is calling for the immediate withdrawal of all “extractiveindustries, tourist companies and power plants that not only occupy and appropriate large tracts of Mongolian grazing lands, but also devastate the ecosystem, deplete the underground water and pollute the air and water.”

“None of my family members were allowed to attend,” he said. “I was denied the right to bring my lawyer to defend myself.” Pixabay

It is also campaigning against the Chinese authorities’ “massivepropaganda campaign to justify their destruction of nomadic civilization and … the natural environment.”

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Chinese government policies, the group said, are “based on deep-seateddiscrimination that characterizes Mongolian pastoralism as ‘backward,archaic, unscientific and uncivilized’ way of life and advertises the Chinese way of life as ‘advanced, civilized and scientific’.”

The authorities should also prosecute “hate crimes and hate speech byChinese individuals, private or public entities and government bodiesagainst Mongolian language, customs, tradition, way of life and identity,” it said. (RFA)