Friday December 15, 2017
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Full Interview with Dr. Donna Yates about art trafficking

Art Trafficking
Source: deccanchronicle

By Nithin Sridhar

Source: www.thehindu.comArt Trafficking:

Every other week, one can hear reports of ancient idols being stolen from some remote corners of India. In a few of those cases, the smugglers are caught and the idols returned to their rightful places. In all other cases, nobody knows what happened to those stolen idols and where they went. Few such idols may occasionally be discovered far away from their home, in some international gallery, never to return home.

This is the reality of what is happening to our Gods whose presence we have invoked in the idols and have been worshiping them for centuries, but whom we are neglecting today by not caring and protecting their abodes (i.e. temples).

In an exclusive interview with NewsGram, Dr. Donna Yates shared her views about art trafficking, antiquities trafficking, sacred art crime, the modus operandi, and the measures needed to prevent such thefts.

Dr. Donna Yates is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow. She is currently visiting Nepal till 19 July, to observe heritage site security measures following the country’s April earthquake.

Nithin Sridhar: In your bio, it’s mentioned that you are currently working on Trafficking Culture project. Can you share with us regarding the work being done in the project?

Dr. Donna Yates: Absolutely. The Trafficking Culture project began in early 2012, thanks to a grant from European Research Council. We are based at the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research.

Our goal is to study the theft, trafficking, and illicit sale of looted cultural objects from a multidisciplinary angle. Thus we use aspects of criminology, archaeology, legal studies, art history, anthropology, and sociology to try and understand this issue.

A lot of our work has focused on local, national, and international policy and tries to answer questions like why laws and regulations fail to protect cultural objects and heritage sites, and what would make those policies better.

To this end we have conducted both quantitative analyses of the market and qualitative studies of antiquities trafficking networks and have done fieldwork in Cambodia, Bolivia, Belize, Mexico and now Nepal, although the Nepal work is only just starting. Our hope is to provide the core research that policy makers need to make effective heritage protection decisions.

NS: Since when have you been interested in artifact smuggling, antiquities etc.? What made you choose this field?

DY: Now that is a long story. The shortest version of it is that when I was 20 years old I was working as an archaeologist in a deep jungle Maya site in Guatemala. The site had been nearly destroyed by the looters. You could actually see tunnels made into each and every large temple in the area.

While I was there, the locals who were working with us told me that a nearby archaeological site had been looted and that someone had been killed over it. This turned out to be true and I realized from that point on that I could not just ignore the issue and be a normal archaeologist. I had to work to understand why heritage sites were targets for theft and work on ways to protect the ancient past that I love. Thus, that is what I have been doing for the past 13 years.

NS: You have been researching on South American and Latin American antiques from a very long time. How have been your experience dealing with these art markets?

DY: It has been interesting to say the least. One very interesting aspect of it is that the words and terms that the art market uses to talk about Latin American antiquities are very different from what archaeologists use. At times, and even to this day, the art market calls the items “Tribal Art” or “Primitive Art”, yet there is nothing primitive about these cultures at all. These were vast, complex cultures.

The Maya, for example, had written history, poetry, and drama. They were also into sophisticated astronomy and mathematics that included a concept of ‘zero’ which even the Greeks didn’t have. When the Spanish first saw the Aztec capital city, they felt it was more beautiful and sophisticated than any city in Europe at the time. To say they are “Tribal” or “Primitive” reflects a generally racist attitude which I think has long been part of the market for ancient Latin American art: an attitude that sees these items as simply ‘art’ rather than important components of larger, beautiful cultures.

NS: What made you turn your attention towards Sacred Arts, especially in relation to Hindu arts dominant in India and Nepal? Please share regarding your Stolen-Gods project.

Dr. Donna Yates

DY: As you know I had been working in Latin America for quite a few years. Over the past three years it became clear to me that the real hot spot for theft in Latin America was not archaeological sites, not ancient places, rather it was the very old churches throughout those countries. These churches, some of which are 500 years old, are filled with all sorts of sacred art: paintings, gold and silver, icons, etc. They are also often located in tiny villages and have poor security. They are what is being targeted. However very few people are monitoring church theft specifically. No one is looking at it academically.

As I started to work on this subject, I began to look for similar situations outside of Latin America. Places where you have many sacred sites, a lot of sacred art, and a specific type of security issue.You can’t just remove the sacred art or lock the door at all times because that would mean that people cannot worship their gods. That brought me to India and Nepal: it is exactly the same issue as Latin American churches.

When I began to look at India and Nepal, I started the Stolen Gods website. Currently, I am using it to collect and share media stories of Sacred Art theft, smuggling, recovery, and protection. I want to bring that information together so that people interested in the topic can use it.

NS: What are the similarities and differences between South Asian situation and Latin American or South American situation with respect to the business of stolen art?

DY: In both locations you have many sacred buildings filled with sacred art. This art is desirable in the art market and thus vulnerable to theft. Also you have a situation where you can’t remove the sacred art to a more secure location without depriving the community of their heritage and culture. In both locations there is also a long history of sacred art theft.

One difference I think is where the stolen sacred art goes i.e. where the market is. Latin American sacred art that is stolen, often either stays in Latin America or moved to the US or Europe. For South Asian Art, although Europe and the US are clearly locations where this art goes, I think that both China and the Gulf states might be emerging as the primary market locations for items stolen from India. I can’t promise this as my research into this topic is preliminary, but anecdotally this is the case.

NS: Even though art smuggling has become a global phenomenon, many people do not have a clear picture regarding the extent of this black market. Are there any estimates regarding this, with respect to India?

DY: That is a very difficult question to answer. I don’t think we have good numbers on sacred art theft from India. One issue is how police worldwide classify theft. If the police do not specify in their records, whether a theft is of an art or of some other objects, then it is nearly impossible for researches to compile the number of art thefts. I am not sure if that is the case in India but it is the case nearly everywhere.

For the most part, in looking at India, I have been looking at media reports. This is, of course, incomplete but it gives a very rough idea of the rate of sacred art theft. In the past few months, in just the English language Indian media (as well as the Hindi and Tamil media that is indexed in English so that I can find it) I am seeing some form of sacred art theft nearly every other day and this is excluding theft of, say, donation boxes. I am talking about theft of idols, jewelry on idols, or sacred decorative elements in temples. Yes, there are a lot of big and small temples in India, but that is still quite a lot of theft. The question, then, is where is it all going? That I don’t have an answer for.

NS: You are currently visiting Nepal till 19th July. Can you tell us regarding the work you are currently doing in Nepal?

DY: I am here to look at how the country has dealt with sacred site security both before and after the earthquake. In the aftermath of this horrible tragedy, there was a lot of talk about the possibility of sacred art theft from ruined homes and temples. Despite the possibility, there have been very, very few reported thefts. I think this is great and I want to see what stakeholders here did to effect that.

Also, as Nepal rebuilds, I am hoping to observe how the issue of heritage site security is being approached- will there be alarms and locks or will they be exploring other forms of security at temple sites?

Finally, as you may know, Nepal has had a similar problem as India when it comes to the theft and trafficking of sacred art. Nepali art and Indian art end up in the same collections, sold by the same dealers, and may have even followed some of the same trafficking routes in the past and present. I want to look into this past and see if things have changed.

But this is all very new. I spent December 2014 in Nepal planning to do a very preliminary, slow moving project and I meant to be in India. However, with the earthquake, I have put my India plans on hold a bit so that I can observe this unique situation.

NS: Can you shed some light regarding how artifacts are classified in general and how their value and prices are decided in the global markets?

sacred art 45

DY: This is a difficult question. For the most part prices are decided based on how much money has been earned from similar objects in the past. International auctions sort of set the baseline prices and individual dealers set their prices accordingly. But that is for the so-called licit market.

The illicit market is a bit more difficult. Prices in the illicit market and along the smuggling chain are based on risk and at times, level of desperation. A good example of this is the now famous Nataraja that was stolen in Tamil Nadu in 2006 and ended up in the National Gallery of Australia (and is now back in India).

The thieves who were contracted to steal the piece were paid about 6000USD. The National Gallery of Australia paid the dealer Subhash Kapoor 5.5 million USD! Thus the people at the bottom who took all the risk were paid the least, but the man at the top who could portray the object as ‘clean’ and a ‘safe buy’ was able to command a very high price.

When it comes to classification, I would argue that on the market, Sacred Indian art is seen more as “Art” than either “Sacred” or “Ancient”. This is an important distinction. If you remove it from its sacred context, you don’t have to think about the cultural loss experienced by the people who no longer have the holy object in their temple. It is just art, nothing else.

If you don’t think of it as “ancient” or as “antiquity” (even if it is a thousand years old), you don’t have to think about the destruction of archaeological sites or the laws broken to get the statue to you. I think a lot of classification on the art market is to remove the real context of the pieces, to make them art above everything else.

NS: Can you tell us about the modus operandi of art and artifact smuggling? I mean, how they procure their objects, how they smuggle it out of countries and how they convince museums and galleries to purchase them?

DY: I think each smuggling network (or individual) is different. People who are interested in serving as middle men, make it known that they are in the market for particular types of art or antiquities and those willing to steal those items do so. Then the items are moved out of the country in a number of ways: by hand, disguised as tourist souvenirs, or through the post. Then they are sold often to collectors who either don’t know that they should check the history of the objects, or don’t really care. Sometimes some false paperwork is made along the way. For the most part, I think that is how the theft and trafficking of smaller, low cost objects work.

When it comes to big items, you need a big and sophisticated operation. It is worth looking into Subhash Kapoor again for this as his operation was truly shocking. He would export the art, routing the items through several ports so that they would pick up a paper trail. He listed them falsely on export and import documents (once as stone garden furniture I believe) and would eventually make up false histories, and false paperwork that he would present to museums.

The Paperwork would make the item appear to have been outside of India before the relevant legislation came into effect. The museums, of course, could have checked up on this paperwork but they chose not to. They only saw what they wanted to see.

NS: How did a well-known and a reputed gallery like National Gallery of Australia end up in possession of stolen artifacts?

DY: The main issue with the National Gallery of Australia is something that in criminology is called creative compliance. This is something that my criminologist colleague Simon Mackenzie is working on. Creative Compliance is when someone conforms to the exact wording of the law or of a regulation, but not the spirit of it.

In other words, they do what they have to do to look good on paper but make sure that they don’t find anything that they don’t want to find. In the case of the National Gallery of Australia, they wanted these pieces and that was the driving force. They nominally checked the provenance of the pieces, using only the paperwork supplied to them by the dealer, decided that everything was in order, and made the purchase.

They, however, did not bother to check the authenticity of the paperwork, to contact the alleged previous owners of the pieces, or (most importantly) law enforcement or specialists in India. A simple phone call to the Tamil Nadu police may have saved them 5.5million USD and a lot of shame.

Clearly their system was very broken. This is why Australia has completely reformed their provenance checking and are reviewing their collections. I respect them quite a bit for admitting that they were wrong and trying to fix their mistake.


NS: Can you shed more light about provenances?

DY: Well I think the biggest issue when it comes to provenance is that we do not have an international system of import and export permits for art like we do for, say, wildlife. Because each country has different standards when it comes to art import and export, middlemen and traffickers can ‘game the system’.

They can send stolen objects through more open transit locations with more relaxed import and export rules so that the stolen objects pick up a ‘legitimate’ history. If every art object is needed to have a standard, certified export permit from its country of origin before it could enter any other country or be sold, it would be a lot harder to launder these objects.

NS: India has been often criticized for having a toothless law that is inefficient to handle art-thefts, and for lacking proper awareness and infrastructure to safeguard the artifacts and prevent smuggling. What are your views regarding this?

DY: In this issue, India is not alone. Many countries are in the same position. Even in locations where there are very tough laws and harsh penalties for looting and trafficking of antiquities, enforcing those laws is often impossible or just ignored at the high level.

When it comes down to it, I think the police look at their priorities and decide they have bigger problems to deal with than art theft. I don’t think that is an entirely unfair way to look at the things, but that just makes me want to work harder on alternative forms of security for sacred sites and sacred arts; community protection for example. Or perhaps proper documentation of all art objects in sacred sites and a community level initiative that both instills pride in these sacred objects and lets everyone know that an object that has been properly documented is unsellable and thus not worth stealing.

What I am trying to say is that my work has looked at why laws and legislation fail and one of the main reasons is that the laws rarely take into account the needs of the communities and the specifics of the situation ‘on-the-ground’.

NS: Can you elaborate on Community protection?

DY: A focus on community involvement in the documentation of art within sacred sites (not just someone from the government or the ASI coming in and doing it), which would accompany community level discussions about both protection of these sites and the realities of the art market is very necessary.

An object that has been properly documented is very difficult to sell on the art market. Even buyers who are willing to buy stolen objects don’t want to spend money on objects that are easily shown to be stolen. Presenting this to communities and then having them help with photographing, measuring etc. of art could go a long way.

NS: What are your future plans? Any new projects that you are taking up?

DY: I have a lot of plans! Outside of research, I am developing an online masters-level series of courses for the University of Glasgow focused on Antiquities Trafficking, Art Crime, and Repatriation of Cultural property and South Asia will feature in all of those. I am also developing a free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) which will go live in February on the same topic.

When it comes to research, Stolen Gods is actually a 3 year focused research project that I plan on working on. It will include further fieldwork in India as well as some work in Guatemala and Peru. This will be the core focus of my research for the next three years. I plan to apply for some additional funding for this and get some PhD students involved in the work. We will see. This project will focus on finding alternative security solutions for sacred sites as well as trying to shed some light on the market itself.

NS: Anything else you want to share regarding artifacts and stolen arts?

DY: One thing I would like to say, regarding India. I am very active, as you know, on Twitter. Even though the Stolen Gods site and my own twitter account doesn’t just focus on South Asia, I have found that the Indian community online is one of the most active and passionate community about this topic. I am not saying that people in other parts of the world don’t care about their sacred art, they very much do, but over the past year I have had such passionate and positive response from people in India about this research that I am very encouraged. For heritage protection, it is important that preservation reflect the needs and desires of the people and it seems that India is very passionate about protecting its heritage. I love it!

Next Story

Veerappan: India’s most wanted

Veerappan was hunted by the police for over four decades, making it the longest man-hunt in India

Veerappan was a smuggler, poacher, murderer and extortionist who was killed in Operation Cocoon
Veerappan in his heyday, He was killed via Operation Cocoon
  • Veerappan was a smuggler of ivory and sandalwood in the southern states of India.
  • He killed government officials and civilians alike when they tried to stop his illegal activities.
  • He died in October 2004 during ‘Operation Cocoon’, which was carried out by a Special Task Force.

Poaching, smuggling, extortion, smuggling, brigandry, murder — these are some of the few charges against Koose Munisamy Veerappan Gounder, popularly known as Veerappan, for whom was constituted India’s largest manhunt, on which the government spent around 1.5 million Rupees. From his childhood, narratives about the elusive dacoit were laced with fiction, as he became an object of myth when he was only ten years old, and had infamously shot his first tusker elephant for ivory. His notoriety became a national concern when the government banned ivory trade in India, and he began felling trees for precious sandalwood, thus beginning a period marred by Veerappan killing government officials and locals alike when they became an obstacle.

Veerappan unleashed a reign of terror on the southern states of India from the early 1980s till his death in 2004; during which Veerappan killing police officers and civilians alike caused a nationwide uproar. In 1990, the notorious smuggler had beheaded a forest officer K. Srinivas, which wasn’t recovered until three years later. In 2000, he had kidnapped the Kannada actor K. Rajkumar, whose release was negotiated through Nakkeeran editor Gopal, to whom the infamous poacher admitted to murdering as many as 120 people. Matters came to a head when   abducted the former Karnataka minister H. Nagappa in 2002, and killed him when his demands were not met.

Operation Cocoon:

Veerappan leading his gang in moily forest,
Veerappan leading his gang in Moily forest. Wikimedia

A Special Task Force or STF was constituted for the capture of Veerappan in 1991, which, headed by K. Vijay Kumar, launched Operation Cocoon in 2004, which finally resulted in Veerappan’s death. Kumar, aided by his previous experience with Veerappan, based Operation Cocoon on human intelligence and interaction, during which multiple STF personnel blended in with the locals in areas frequented by Veerappan. The initial stages of Operation Cocoon consisted of gaining the trust of Veerappan’s associates, till they started divulging details about his failing health. In the years before his death, the elusive outlaw seemed to have lost much of his vigour and vitality, as he suffered from diabetes, and a cataract had almost blinded him in one eye.
On 18th October, 2004, the police lured Veerappan out of familiar terrains in an ambulance, and apprehended him at a roadblock, where he was killed in the crossfire between his team and the STF, via three bullets. The photographs after Veerappan’s demise show him in a pathetic light, bereft of his signature handlebar moustache, and the agility which had facilitated his escape for over four decades.

There have been a lot of controversies regarding his death, as many media houses and activists have claimed that Operation Cocoon has derived Veerappan of a fair trial by law. Some have even claimed that he was tortured to death in police custody. The facts regarding the elusive sandalwood smuggler remain inconclusive even after a decade of his death, due to the lack of concrete evidence.


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Exclusive Interview of Padma Bhushan Dr. David Frawley

Padma Bhushan Dr. David Frawley in an interview with NewsGram talked about missionary-marxist-jehadi nexus and a lot more

  • “Christians have formed a multinational conversion business, they have created giant corporations with international connections operating worldwide, with international funding. India is their prime target. Hindus should not be this naive, they must assert their rights and identity” – Dr. David Frawley

New Delhi – In an exclusive interview with NewsGram’s Sub-Editor Shaurya Ritwik, Padma Bhushan Dr. David Frawley talked about necessity of Yoga and Ayurveda for a healthy lifestyle, science of self realisation, essence of Hindu Dharma, Ram Mandir Ayodhya, marxist-missionary-jehadi nexus of breaking India forces and a lot more.

Dr. David Frawley, First of all I would like to thank you for all the literary contributions you made for Hinduism, for being so vocal about human rights of Hindus and for inspiring us in many ways.

Thank You very much, Shaurya.

Dr. Frawley, you have written many books on Ayurveda and Yoga. We are witnessing a growing inclination towards Yoga everywhere in world but somehow Ayurveda is still not widely accepted in medical use as compared to pharmaceutical medicines. How can Ayurveda be utilised in mainstream medical treatment and how much effective is it?

Well actually, I have seen the Ayurvedic situation improve over the last 34 years that I have known about it. As you know, the British closed the Ayurvedic schools in India, so it only became a private study. Then after independence the Ayurveda underwent modernisation and development in independent India, and that include developing basically BAMS Ayurveda which include a lot of modern medicine, which is helpful in some ways but also have eliminated traditional Ayurveda. It changed Ayurveda quite a bit, removing things like Yoga, spirituality from it, largely for social and political purposes. But in past few years Ayurveda in India is again bringing in more traditional elements, more pulse diagnosis, more connection with Yoga, that is happening slowly, but it still has a long way to go as BAMS syllabus is very restricted. At the same time we have seen the improvement in selling of Ayurvedic products, for example Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali, Dabur, Himalayan etc. These Indian companies are producing better quality of products and broader range of Ayurvedic medicines. But the education system tends to looks down on Ayurveda, and the people who study modern medicine often give negative view of Ayurveda. And then people today often want quick pills to solve their problems whereas Ayurveda emphasises natural healing which requires us to change our behaviour, which means we have to change our diet, our patterns of sleeping, improve our exercise. Our state of well being is the product of our behaviour. Ayurveda is gaining respect in other parts of world. In the west people are more concerned with rejuvenation, improving their health and the positive way of promoting longevity. In terms of treating chronic elements and improving lifestyle Ayurveda has a lot to offer. You must understand that your health is the product of how you live, you can take a pill once in a while but in a long term you should have a healthy lifestyle and Ayurveda teaches that.

Dr. Frawley, in today’s corporate setting life is very fast, people have no time to look beyond materialistic world. In such chaos how can we get connected to our roots and dharma? How to move ahead in spiritual path of self realisation?

This is again a problem all over the world as people don’t have time. People have lots of money but they don’t have time. We have to understand that our time does matter. Unfortunately, there is no solution to healthy and happy life other than quality time to improve your life. There is no pill you can take. Young people are taking pills before they turn 40, they are depressed, they are unhappy, they are disturbed. So we have to change the lifestyle and we have to put pressure on the businesses to give time to people to renew their productivity. when you are young you need to create a foundation of positive habits for the future. So, this is a challenge, there is no easy way out. There are yoga practices, pranayama which you must devote an hour everyday, not just for physical health but also for spiritual well being. You need to empty the mind, do some meditation, do some chanting, because otherwise we carry the stress, over and over from one day to another. This is a suicidal problem.

Interview of Dr. Frawley
Padma Bhushan Dr. David Frawley aka Pandit Vamadeva Shastri (Photo Credit : Shaurya Ritwik)

Dr. Frawley, you have been very vocal about missionary-marxist-jehadi nexus in India which no politician can ever say out of vote bank fear or political correctness. We want to know how severely we are affected by this toxic breaking India nexus, and how we should resist to these forces?

This was the problem I recently witnessed in Kerala, it was a major problem there. Infact when I was driving down the roads I saw posters for communist gatherings with pictures of Marx, Lenin and Stalin, perhaps only place on Earth where you see such pics nowadays. In Kerala we also found out that the missionaries are aligned with communists, which they never do in United States or other countries, they are poles apart otherwise. And also this Marxist-Jehadi alliance is strong in South India. So as Hindu forces are getting stronger, the opposition is now forced to unite. Just for example we saw in elections the anti-BJP parties all got together even though they were fighting among each other, have different ideologies. In Kerala this is a big problem, karnataka also has this problem, Tamil Nadu also, to some extent everywhere. The main thing is that Hindu society is to be united, they should be ready to protest and take a stand. You can’t always be nice and say we are all good, we are all the same. Well, the point is hindus accept all religions but the other religions are still trying to convert Hindus. If communal harmony depends upon letting hindus being converted and loose their religion, that’s not communal harmony. Its a continuation of colonialism and religious extremism. So unity in Hindu society is most important. And also voting. If you vote for these guys you can’t complain them being in power. India is a country where Muslims and Christians are encouraged to vote their religion but Hindus are not. In this world today power is with those who are in power so you have to have a political paradigm. It is a long battle because India has been under siege by missionaries, marxist, colonial and Islamist forces for many centuries. After independence the control of british army and administration was gone but the marxist influence continued, the missionaries actually grew more power and the congress party was promoting the christian and muslim vote banks, so even after the independence of India the siege against Hindus at a cultural level has not ended so that need to be challenged.

Dr. Frawley, when we see communists of China and Russia, they are at least nationalist. But in India communists are very much anti-national, anti-hindu. We generally find in India that Hindus are against Hindutva cause in name of secularism. Why is this amnesia among Hindus regarding our past?

Well, Russia is now a Christian country, Russians have thrown out communist history, China is communist in name only, Chinese have confucian schools all across country promoted by government, you don’t have vedic schools by government in India. And you are right, Indian left is anti national, even Congress party is anti national, someone like Kapil Sibal arguing the case against Ram Mandir shows they are anti-hindu too. These people are putting their own privilege above all. India has been run by a dynasty, and they want their power to retain. This needs to be exposed. Now the fact is that thousands of Hindu temples were destroyed  and after independence we got only one back. How can a free India not have a temple for Lord Ram? Ram is your national image. It wasn’t just muslims, but Jawaharlal Nehru who stopped Ram Mandir Ayodhya. And even today, it is these leftist, marxist and Congress who are trying to stop Ram Mandir nirmaan in Ayodhya. Rahul Gandhi is visiting Somnath temple but it is just hypocrisy. You go to Kashi Vishwanath and you will see that the back part of temple is still a mosque, even in Krishna Janambhoomi. But again, Hindus must unite, you can’t just let go. Hindus need to recognise their political and social power.

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Dr. Frawley, We generally see that Islamists and Christians use religion as a political force, they tend to recognise political power whereas most of the Hindus believe that religion and politics should not be mixed up. Hindus also believe that secularism and inherent inclusiveness of Hinduism makes it special. Some people argue that even after centuries of foreign rule we survived because of this soft nature but they forget that once Afghanistan, Indonesia, Myanmar etc were also Hindu. Do you believe this soft nature of Hindus make them easy target for civilisational jihad? Do you feel somehow Hindus are also responsible if they are letting their poor section of society being converted by missionaries?

Even Mongolia was traditionally buddhist, now its getting christianised. There was big Buddhist and Hindu influences in Central Asia. Hindus are tolerant and they allow muslims and christians to convert them. Hindus say all religions are same, Muslims don’t, Christians don’t so it is clearly a one way street. And Muslims and Christians are giving bad image of Hindus. They are constantly making an attempt to take you over. As you asked, of course Hindus are also responsible. Hindus have to challenge missionaries. And they have to be willing to pay for things, to take care of underprivileged section of their society, to help them overcome poverty. Hindus have to be stronger in their expression, their assertion, their identity. In few decades Christain-Islamic alliance will eliminate you, don’t be naive. Christians have formed a multinational conversion business, they have created giant corporations with international connections, with international funding. India is a main country in world which allow missionaries in, China does not. Islamic countries do not. Yet the missionaries are criticizing India and not China or Islamic countries because they have some levarage here. Like in Gujarat the bishop can ask christians to vote, that does’t occur in other countries. That’s a blatant interference in public affairs. These groups are surviving in India because Hindus are tolerant. Hindu society must introspect and resist such forces.

Dr. David Frawley, In India the education system has been long controlled by leftists, most of the history taught to us was distorted, for last 60 years leftist mindset was imposed in academics. When Narendra Modi became Prime Minister it was expected that some course correction will follow. But we can not see any drastic changes yet. The moment government tries to rectify previously committed blunders in academia, national and international media start screaming the song of intolerance. Government is also concerned about its secular image (pseudo-secular) worldwide and this is taken as a leverage by breaking India forces. Will it ever be possible for government to course correct hundreds of years of distortion?

Yeah, but that takes a little bit of time. And when this govt came in power, the previous Congress government bankrupted all the institutions. There was no money to run the country. There was corruption everywhere. So even keeping the country afloat was difficult. Then they have ruined all the international status, economically and politically. So naturally it takes time, which is going to take good 10 years at least. So its important that Hindus continue to apply pressure but the first thing is you have to stay in power. And secondly you have to workout things bit by bit, and many of these problems have various related complications. Make sure to increase the political power. For example when Yogi Adityanath took charge in Uttar Pradesh that radically changed the situation in U.P. So changes are going on, for example in Madhya Pradesh they are starting Adi Shankara Yatra. Also, Hindus have to educate their own children, you can’t wait for schools to tell your child what Hinduism is. For Christians and for Muslims religion is simplistic, believe in Jesus and Bible and you are a Christian, believe in Mohammad and Quran and you are Muslim, the Hindu tradition is one of Sadhana and practice, its about becoming a better person, so that requires more effort. We must understand that Hindu Dharma has a much broader view of life. Islam is growing by reproduction, not by thoughts. Christianity is declining in Europe and united States, churches have to import priests from India to give sermons.

People say India is the first home of Dr. David Frawley. You have been coming to India for so many years, writing about Hinduism, Ayurveda & Yoga and Indian culture & civilisation. What was your transition point towards Hinduism and how your love for India grew over time?

Well you see there was several transition points, not just one. As I grew up in late 60s, in my later teen, we already had Gurus from India, teachings were available of Paramhansa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Aurobindo, Raman Maharishi. I was fortunate enough to coming in contact with those teachings during formative stage of my thoughts. So they were part of my growing up. So the main background was Yoga Vedanta. In studying Shri. Aurobindo’s work I also came in contact with vedas and that gave me an interest in Indian history. While studying Rigveda I found a very advanced civilisation. I realised that ancient history of India has been distorted. And then when I came to India, I was surprised to see the anti Hindu sentiments. I saw Indians were not interested in Aurobindo and Vivekananda but they were interested in Karl Marx. In Rotary club of Mumbai, I criticised Marx and people were up an arms against me. I said Marx had a very small mind, you can put entire brain of Marx in one corner of Aurobindo or Vivekanand thoughts. The vedantic view, Karma, Moksha, self realisation made perfect sense to me. Other things seemed to be very superficial. And over time I gained the greater understanding, the broader feel of Sanatan Dharma.

Padma Bhushan Dr. David Frawley interviewed by Shaurya Ritwik in New Delhi, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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Bhai Boolchand-the Indian who launched trade with Ghana

The first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast (Ghana's colonial name) in 1890 , Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana

Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana.
Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana. pixelbay
  • Bhai Boolchand, the anonymous Indian, is credited with starting trade between Ghana and India
  • The year was 1890.

Not much is known about him, but it has now emerged that trade relations between Ghana and Indiawere started by Bhai Boolchand, the first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast — Ghana’s colonial name — in 1890. That’s some 67 years before the British colonial government granted the country independence, research by the Indian Association of Ghana has found.

“As far as our records show, Bhai Boolchand (of the Bhaiband Sindhworki trading community), landed on the shores of the Gold Coast in western Africa in 1890. Nearly twenty years later, in 1919, the first Sindhi company was established by two brothers — Tarachand Jasoomal Daswani and Metharam Jasoomal Daswani,” the Indian Association said.

The duo opened a store — Metharam Jassomal Brothers — in the then capital city of Cape Coast in 1919.

“Their business flourished and branches were opened in Accra and Kumasi. A few years later, the two brothers separated and whilst Bhai Metharam Jasoomal continued the business as Metharam Brothers, Tarachand Jasoomal operated his business as Bombay Bazaar. These were the first two Indian companies that were established in the Gold Coast,” the Association said.

Boolchand’s arrival, therefore, pre-dates the historical links between the two countries that were always thought to have started between Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkruman, and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Boolchand can thus be described as the one who paved the way for the arrival of other members of the Sindhi community, initially as traders and shopkeepers.

The Indian Association said more of this group arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, with a few venturing into manufacturing industries such as garments, plastics, textiles, insecticides, electronics, pharmaceuticals and optical goods.

The Association said two more Indian firms were established under the names of Lilaram Thanwardas and Mahtani Brothers in the 1920s. This trend continued in the 1930s and 1940s with the creation of several more Indian companies like T. Chandirams, Punjabi Brothers, Wassiamal Brothers, Hariram Brothers, K. Chellaram & Sons, G. Motiram, D.P. Motwani, G. Dayaram, V. Lokumal, and Glamour Stores.

Glamour Stores, which was stared by Ramchand Khubchandani who arrived in Ghana in 1929, has grown — after changing its name to Melcom Group — to become the largest retailing business in the country. The Melcom Group, headed by Ramchand’s son Bhagwan Khubchandani, is now in its 60th year and about 40 stores all over the country.

Ramchand and his brother later went into garment manufacturing in 1955 and once employed over 1,200 Ghanaians. They later opened the first Indian restaurant, Maharaja, in Ghana. Bhagwan followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1989 established the Melcom Group with his sons-in-law, Mahesh Melwani and Ramesh Sadhwani.

Another Indian-owned company that has survived through the years is the Mohanani Group, which is currently in its 51st year. At the first-ever Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, the Ministry of Trade and Industries recognised the work of one of the thriving Indian-owned B5 Plus Steel Company and awarded it the Best Expatriate Company in the metal and steel category.

As these companies brought in new expatriate staff, some left their employers to venture out on their own — resulting in more companies opening up.

“After 1947, the Gold Coast attracted the attention of some Indian multinational companies, and big names like Chanrai, Bhojsons, K.A.J. Chotirmal, Dalamals and A.D. Gulab opened branches in Ghana,” the Association said.

“The employment of Ghanaians by these founding companies also helped to lessen the burden of unemployment in the country. This amply demonstrates the level of commitment India has in the developmental agenda of Ghana,” it said.

Indians are not only investing in the manufacturing and commercial sectors of the country; they are also investing in the financial sector. Bank of Baroda, one of India’s biggest and most reputable banks, recently established a branch in Ghana and hopefully it will expand its operations in other parts of the country very soon. (IANS)