July 12, 1998
© Akhilesh Mithal
Get on With Governance
No one in India and no one outside India is prepared to give a clean chit to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh government of India for its first 100 days of perching perilously on the pallet, masnad, or throne.
Except the shakhas themselves, the paid-by-the-government advertisements or the statements issued by ministers which have to be published as revenues depend upon it. At the same time, a search is on for an alibi.
The awful legacy of Pandit Nehru. The faulty Constitution. The wrong policies in all areas from Kashmir to Nuclear. Above all, the pseudo-secular history texts which have prevented character building.
The RSS government cannot deliver unless all these are set right. The slogan appears to be Do not blame us of the RSS! The proverb A bad workman quarrels with his tools has a superior and most witty Indian version, Naachnaa naa jaaney, aangan teydhaa. (Blame the courtyard for being awry if you cant dance)!
The RSS appears to be under the impression that they are the first people to rule India and have, therefore, the right to evolve everything ab initio. The fact is that there has been an all India or pan India polity not only in myth but in reality for all of 25 centuries. Chandragupta Maurya in the 4th Century BC, the one called Sandrocottus by the Greeks is credited with being the first historical emperor of India.
From then until the end of the Empire of the House of Teymour (called the Mughals by the ignorant British) everyone knew that good government means collecting revenue without letting it leak into the hands of the corrupt officials and that legitimacy and credibility comes from dispensing justice in an even-handed manner.
The model has been laid down again and again by geniuses like Kautilya and Abul Fazal Allami and in recent times, B R Ambedkar. Instead of getting on with the act of governance, the RSS are coordinating campaigns on the internet and in Letters to the Editor columns to target their enemies and to call Lal Krishna Advani a failed Home Minister, the Second Patel. Shades of Sikandar-ass-saanee (Second Alexander).
This title was self-bestowed by some Dillee Sultans! Good government firstly requires, a concern for the people, their dukh-sukh (joys and sorrows). From the times of the Mauryas down to the last of the effective Mughals, Aurangazeb Aalamgeere, an information system kept the ruler in the picture about everything of consequence in the realm.
News of the everyday life of the people, the doings of the senior officials, the prices of commodities from wheat and rice to elephants and deer; the exchange rates prevailing between gold and silver; silver and copper; copper and cowries were reported to make required intervention possible at any time and in any area.
Knowledge is power. The ruler was looked upon as both the mother and the father (maaee-baap) and respected as such by the people. Good rulers tried to live up to this standard.
Their role was to prevent, in the words of Kautilya, Fish Law from prevailing. This, the Matsya Nyaaya, means the big fish swallow the small fry. The rich and the powerful exploit the poor and the weak.Muhammad Kazim, the chronicler of Aurangazeb Aalamgeere says,
The farsighted Emperor always acts for the good of people (Jumhour) in the administration of public affairs and to ensure the eternal preservation of the realm of the House of Amir Teymour. He exercises eternal, unblinking vigilance and keeps himself posted and well-informed about all that happens anywhere in his domain.
The information gathering is done by the posting of swanihinigaars or reporters in all provinces (sarkars) and districts (parganas).These newsmen write daily reports (roznaamchahs) and send them to the Emperor to keep him well aware of the behaviour of officials from the army commander/governor down to the lowest ranks.
Rewards and punishments were secret writers whose identities were not known to anyone except the Emperor himself. Muhammad Kazim also talks about the other functionary entrusted with keeping the emperor informed. This dual system provided the much-needed checks and balances to make for an efficient and fool-proof system.
The second functionary in the news area was the waqainawis. He was well known and manifest as against the undercover swanihinigaar. The waqainawiss reports were routed through the subedar or the army commander/governor to the Mir Bakshi or Quarter Master General in the Court for transmission to the Emperor himself.
Muhammad Kazim comments: If the waqainawis, being partial to any person and wishing to protect him fails to report any misdemeanour or act of injustice, the swanihinigaar will not fail in his duty to inform the Emperor about the wrong and without concealing any of the facts. Owing to the constant vigilance of the Emperor, officials perform their duties punctiliously, abstaining from evil actions.
The system was good because the Emperors were just and meticulous in the administration of justice without fear of hurting relatives and favour for those enjoying imperial affections. The Emperor used to bestow thousands of khilats or dresses on people who called upon him on official business.
For this reason imperial workshops and factories had to employ the very best artisans and master workers and craftsmen. To bestow or grant anything less than the very best that could be produced would be a lapse. The story that follows should be read in this context.
The waqainawis of Burhanpur, the then headquarters of the Deccan command and ruled on behalf of Emperor Shahjahan by Prince Aurangazeb, was an official named Mir Nasir. He was also darogha or chief of the kaarkhaana or factory of the Emperor. One of Nasirs reports had complaints about the Prince himself.
It said: In consequence of Prince Aurangzeb having employed all the best artisans and workmen in his own factories (kaarkhaanaas), the quality of work in both the imperial workshops as well as those of the Begum Sahib, Princess Jahanara, first lady of the realm after the death of her mother Mumtaz Mahal, are no longer of the best quality.
This report made the Emperor wild with rage and the Prince was administered an imperial rocket. To defend himself Aurangazeb wrote an explanation to his august eldest sister and also to Prime Minister Saadulla Allami. He alleged personal animus and malice in Mir Nasir!
As can be seen, strong emperors made for strong officials who could brave the anger of Princes. Auragazeb is considered a master of prose writing in Persian and a sequel in the correspondence shows that he had a chance to retaliate, albeit in a mild manner. Burhanpur produced a variety of mangoes greatly favoured by Shahjahan.
Every year, many baskets of the fruit were sent to the capital for the Emperors delectation and delight. The mango was even named Shahpasand or Emperors choice. One year the mango crop failed and there were no fruit to send to the Sublime Porte.
Aurangazeb could not resist writing, As your majesty might be misled by the waqainawis into thinking that I have been remiss in my duties of sending you the fruit of your choice, may I plead with your Imperial majesty that nature has been niggardly, etc, etc! Instances are recorded when the waqainawis played safe by informing someone in the Court but not the Emperor.
The idea was to make sure that the bad news was purveyed when the Emperor was in an equable frame of mind. Otherwise in accordance with the practice of Mongol ancestors the Emperor may have the head of the bearer of evil tidings struck from his body!
There is a letter of Aurangazeb after he became the Emperor Aalamgeere addressed to his favourite son Azam Shah in which he says, Most noble son! The waqainawis of the pargana of Loni has written to his brother that the Amir and the faujdaar (the revenue collecting/loan in times of distress dispensing and the law and justice administering officials) have entered into collusions for embezzling public funds.
They collect 15 to 20 thousand rupees each year as road toll. Only one or two thousand of this amount finds its way into the treasury. As diversion of public money into private pockets is haraam (unlawful), a farmaan, an imperial order is being promulgated.A rupee in those days could buy over 40 seers (nearly 40 kilos) of wheat.
The amount should not be confused with todays cheap money.The RSS should ponder a saying of Aurangazeb. In a battle, when his forces were vastly outnumbered, the emperor stood up in his howdah and proclaimed loudly as if uttering a war cry: Himmatey Murdaan Mududay Khudaa. (When men show courage, Gods help is at hand.) This saying holds good for all times.
© Akhilesh Mithal, 1991-1998. All rights reserved.