October 18, 1998
© Akhilesh Mithal

Clinton's Original Sin


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The Itihaas column titled ‘Dangerous Duo’ (dated September 6) got garbled because of a missing para. This omission read:“When the social history of the first half century (50 years) of free India is read by posterity it will be a matter of wonder that self promoting and insensitive persons like Khushwant Singh and Maqbul Fida Husain were the exemplars of Indian culture in the area of writing and art.”

Their success was explained in the paragraphs that followed as being caused by a total culture breakdown resulting from western domination. As is well known, slaves copy their masters.

In their attempt to become European, westernised, American and “White”, the Indian elite have lost all sense of proportion. Even the grim and solemn rites of death have been trivialised. The other errors were “Abdul” (slave of) being printed Abdullah (slave of God!), “Kalaam” being given a Q to make it Qalaam.

Stakhanovite, the “art” form developed and promoted by Bolshevik Russia, been given an extra vowel — ‘i’ to make it Stakhainovite. To compensate readers for these errors, we give a story from Khushwant. In his lectures to an American University he said, “Draupadi is the first example of striptease in India.”

The reference is to the famous incident when Dushaasana drags a resisting Draupadi to the Kaurava court by her hair and proceeds to try and disrobe her in full public view so as to dishonour her and thus humiliate her husbands, the mighty and heroic Pandavas.

This example links Khushwant to Husain as Draupadi and Sita are of no consequence in situations where these worthies are out to get attention. The freedom of expression has rarely suffered such misuse.Perhaps the embarrassment and chagrin we are suffering is caused by having the US as a role model.

Their Madeleine Albright has failed to provide copy for the gossip columnists. Her sanctimonious remarks against non-White nations have found their comeuppance in the mortification being experienced by her boss. Clinton has shown a total lack of integrity and character.

The honourable course for him would have been to step down when Monica’s accusations were first made. But he will drag his family through the murkiest, most stinky cesspools of publicity before being drummed out of office.

Readers must have seen that the Anglo-Saxon Protestant Whites who lead the world, because they have the highest per capita consumption figure, are concerned not about the suffering of deprived humanity but only about Original Sin. There is no innovation or invention evolved by them in the matter of sinning.

The Old Testament appears to have provided as full a coverage as was possible and innovations here have not kept pace with the western notion of “progress”. The Clinton affair is boring in the extreme and, as relief, we provide a legal case from 17th century India for the entertainment of our readers.

This case also involves lying. Jahangir (Prince Salim, hero of the legend Anarkali and one of the greatest connoisseurs of the art of painting the world has ever known) was Emperor of India from 1605-1627. During his reign, a Qazi (Lord Chief Justice) called Nurullah (the Light of God) Shustari was accused of lying before his liege lord, the Emperor himself.

The minimum sentence, six lashes of the whip (taaziaanaa), was imposed. The Qazi was an old and frail scholar given to reading the law in public and polemic writing in secret. The latter was directed against the Sunnis.

Readers should remember that the official religion of the Emperor was Sunni of the Hanafi variety. The executioner who inflicted the punishment was a strapping youth of immense strength. Four whiplash blows were enough to extinguish the flicker of life in the aged frame.

The Shias call the Qazi Shaheed-i-Saalis (the third martyr) because Nurulla’s extraordinary scholarship and the vitriolic prowess of his pen held the Sunnis at bay. The reputation of Jahangir became awful. He had already, in order to make an example, put down the rebellion of Prince Khusro with great severity.

The supporters of the rebel suffered. They included a holy man held in high esteem by some people who think that the punishment he suffered was not on “political” grounds but because of religious beliefs.Shustari’s case is similar to that of Clinton.

He, too, lied to his sovereign, the Emperor, as Clinton has been lying to his sovereign, the people of the US.As a judge, Shustari had to opine in accordance with the Shariat, the Sunna and the Quran. The four great Sunni law schools are Hanbali, Maliki, Shaafii and Hanafi.

The Shia interpretations do not always accord with Sunni ones. Shustari boasted that each of his judgment was four square with one of the four established Sunni schools of interpretation while the remaining Shiite in spirit.

This remarkable feat shows not only the competence and dexterity of the Qazi but also the great sense of equity, fair play and justice which was the spirit of the Empire.

Shustari was not content with his achievement in Law. In his spare time he wrote a reply to counter a famous polemical work against Shiite doctrine. This effort was kept secret and the work shown only to the elect of the same faith.

The Sunnis introduced an agent provocateur posing as acolyte. As soon as he won trust he was given the secret book to read. Forthwith he made a copy and gave it to Shustari’s enemies. This damning evidence in their possession emboldened them.

They waited for an opportunity and at a suitable moment accused the Qazi of being a crypto Shia. The allegation was made when the court was in assembly. Like Clinton today, the Qazis prevaricated and dissimulated instead of boldly confessing his position.

The Emperor did not wish to press the matter further and was all for letting sleeping dogs lie. But Shustari’s enemies persisted. He had cleansed the judiciary of a great deal of malpractice and in consequence had made numerous and implacable enemies.

The opposition at this critical juncture produced Shustari’s polemic against the Sunnis. The Qazi’s style was as unmistakable as a fingerprint or a semen stain. And gave the Qazi away. He was proven a liar.

The Emperor was embarrassed. The Shia-Sunni dispute meant little to him. In his eyes, the Qazi’s sin was one of telling him, the Emperor, a lie. This was lése majesté and that could not be allowed to pass unpunished.

The minimum sentence was imposed, six lashes. As we know four were enough to end the life of the Qazi. Readers will note that the preoccupations of 17th century India were with the problems of Being and Becoming.

Those of the most powerful nation in the world are buttons, zippers and stains. Alas!No wonder that the chronicles were written in those times by Abul Fazl Allami, Abdul Qadir Badaayounee, Khwaja Nizamuddin.

We now have Khushwant Singh and Maqbul Fida Husain to say nothing of Bala Saheb Thackeray and Benazir Bhutto. The culture fractured Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis deserve no better.



© Akhilesh Mithal, 1991-1999. All rights reserved.
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