Cesspool of Poverty

“Only the vanquished remember history” Marshall McLuhan

Not only do Afghans remember their history but also live it on a daily basis. It was in 1927 the king along with his queen set sail from Karachi to acquaint himself about developments in Europe to further improve his modernisation programme. In his absence Brits betrayed him by circulating his photographs in the company of men and women in an open society. Brits hired services of Mullahs and they started a campaign against the King. So, King was eased out and out of nowhere Bacha-i-Saqao was enthroned. Saqa incidentally is a person who carries water in a mashq (a leather container or skin of sheep). A water carrier occupied the seat of Power. Today Afghanistan is in as much hopeless situation as it was 94 years ago.

When Europe set about to establish colonies in the West and East, the world was more or less stable. European countries traditionally were always in war against each other. Europe produced misery and exported to each- other’s territory.

But wealth from colonies enabled Europe to export misery to other lands. They gifted infected linen blankets to native Americans which were infected with small pox against which natives had no immunity. They were exterminated by this crude biological warfare. Colonial weaponization of small pox virus against natives was an addition to the weapons colonisers were carrying with them.

At home, in England in the 18th century the misery visited the local population in the wake of Industrialisation and factory system, which the private enterprise created in England.

“The master has no time for anything but money; the servant no time for anything but labour. The physical competition between the iron frame and human frame was a question more of political than social economy. This is in a few words what the factory system was previous to 1833 AD.” Robert Baker was factory inspector in London in 1858.

If we look back, three Empires call our attention. Ottoman Empire (1703 to 1922). Safavid or Persian Empire (1501 to 1722). Mughal Empire (1526 to 1746).

Nothing abides

Europe at that point of time was clad in tatters. The English literature stands witness to that. Especially Shakespeare! He sums up History eloquently – the Kings and court intrigues which people mistake for politics. The decadence and wars.

                                    Famine is in thy cheeks,

                                    Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes

                                    Contempt and beggary hang upon thy back

                                    The world is not thy friend nor the world Law

                                    The world affords no law to make the rich

                                    Then be not poor, but break it and take this.

French Engineer Sebastian Vauban in 1690 says: three fourth of the people dress in nothing but half rotting tattered linen. A century later philosopher Marque Condorcet describes those who possess neither goods nor chattels and are destined to fall into misery at the least accident. Money lending were pivotal in village society. Money lenders would advance money for farming to show semblance of life.

Now compare the misery of Europe with affluence of Ottomans or Mughals. 400 years of expansion, (1437 – 1703) consolidation and entrenching Arab lands in the Central Europe. And as a consequence of continuity of political stability, the Caliphate created a new social tapestry- of politics, religion and economic viability. It became a thinking mammoth. The prosperity of Ottomans is recorded in their great constructions. Koca Agha was chief Architect of King Sulieman II. He designed 300 major structures some of which are now heritage sites.

And the Mughals! They built upon what earlier Muslim invaders had achieved. And that included the transformation of a once vibrant India into a servile society. Hindus became totally powerless. The culture of two different ways of life met violently conquered the weak and settled down to guide life of a people where Kings manage not govern. That’s beauty of India.

The landmass is governed by the Sun and Monsoon and the everlasting motion of the earth around the Sun.

And the Mughals apart from conducting wars governed and constructed. Badshahi mosque, Diwan e Khas, Mughal Gardens – Lahore, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Lal Qila and of course Taj Mahal. Mughal Gardens & Pari Mahal in Kashmir is money well spent. It added grandeur to the Dal Lake. Land mass of India still produces wealth and much more than what it created during Mughal/British period. But for the ever- lacking management skills of the rulers!

Clive- the clerk

In 1739, Nadir Shah swooped down from the Khyber and one electrifying action killed, looted, even the Peacock Throne Shah Jahan had got made for himself. North India lay prostrate. Afghanistan was cut off politically and irrevocably from India. From the days of Gandhara it became a separate entity. Nadir Shah established himself the Ruler of Persia. He didn’t come in conflict with Marathas. But in 1761 Ahmed Shah Durrani defeated Maratha army at Panipat. Flower of Maratha army perished in this battle.

It is a mystery that India has not been able to repulse any attack since Mehmood Gaznavi defeated Raja Jay Pal. The Mughals couldn’t succeed in repulsing foreigners. Only British succeeded in repulsing Japan but that was from a foreign land. It so happens and this is what I feel, the effect of climate of India- High mean temperature and humidity. It bakes a person and next high humidity, saps every ounce of energy. It softened Turks, Mongols, Mughals and filtered them of their violent ways.

By the middle if 16th century Mughals were more or less in decline. When in decline the monolith falls on evil hands and as a consequence on evil days. Opportunists and turn coats, mobsters and demagogues become part of the failing structure. This leaves stage for new hustlers. A cartel of corruption and profit flowers. Since at the ground level people are put to a recession like situation, like in Pakistan today, a mob of conmen originate a theatre of threats and lies and last-minute retreats. Brinkmanship of Imran Khan is a good example.

While in decay it swings from fitful resurgence to wasteful dissipation. Lesson of History!


Murshidabad was very recently in news for a gruesome murder. Murshidabad is the new trouble spot which India shouldn’t ignore. It was Capital of Bengal. Siraj-ul-Daula became the independent Nawab in 1756 and died at age 24 after he suffered a defeat in Plassey. His career was doomed ab initio because his ascendance infuriated his maternal uncle. He made mistakes. East India Co angered him more. He had discovered that:

  1. The company was improving fortification of Fort Williams.
  2. The Company in contravention of agreement with the Mughals started unfair trade practices which resulted in loss of revenue to the treasury.
  3. The Company gave refuge to fugitives of the State.

Next, he challenges the Company forces at Plassey. He lost for whatever reasons there may be. But the conspirators succeeded in avenging themselves. The Sun started rising over a distant England which being situated 55 degrees North received frugal sunshine and frugal comforts at that point of time.

Bengal that means West Bengal and Bangla Desh put together came under the suzerainty of the Mughals as its wealthiest province. Bengal produced almost 50% of Empire’s GDP and 12% of the world GDP. Manufacturing apart from Farm Production was of equal partner in GDP growth. Ship building and Textile production kept both people and the state happy. When East India Co took control of Bengal and consolidated it after battle of Buxar it was like laying siege of a gold mine. The plunder followed which financed the industrial revolution of England and Europe.


Indian sub-continent is surrounded by sea on three sides. In the North mighty Himalayas protect it from cold clime from Arctic. The land route from central Asia ran through Iran-Afghanistan. Once you cross Khyber Pass, you enter the Indian sub- continent.

Subuktigin the king of Afghanistan tried to achieve a break through for 45 years. It was his son Mehmood who defeated Raja Jayapal and crossed the Pass.

What he did is known to all. Seventeen raids in five years and locals could not defend one land route! Alberuni writes: Mehmood destroyed the prosperity of the Hindus. They became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions and like a tale of old in the mouths of people. Their scattered remains cherish of course the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims.

Mahmood annexed the Punjab and Sindh to his dominion. Thus, the gateway to India was open to attacks from fortune seeking kings and brigands. Once the mountain border was over run, no land border could withstand any invasion and that is what happened later in the history. The defeat did not teach the Hindus any lessons. They didn’t reassemble to reconquer lost border. They, remained indifferent to what was going on in the world of wars and military science.

Neither ship building, nor use of gun powder, nor any sense of artillery nor political wisdom or sense of forging strategic alliances made India a gold laying seated duck. And she was robbed, mutilated and condemned to servitude for one thousand years but not before the border in the North shifted from Khyber to Uri in Kashmir and another cutting across the Bengal gold mine. Again, an indefensible land border!