|From left Professor SM Rahman, Professor Nazrul Islam, Tim Steel, Rosemary Arnott, OBE.
The PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Bangladesh Chapter and the Skal International of Bangladesh in collaboration with the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh organized a seminar on Southwest Silk Road at the Asiatic Society Auditorium last week.
It was the first ever CSR project of PATA Bangladesh Chapter and Skal Club Bangladesh to create awareness about the recent archaeological and historic findings at Wari Bateshwar and in other parts of the country which reveal pictures of trade and tourism passing through Bangladesh along the historic Southwest Silk Road.
Keynote papers were presented by (1) Tim Steel, advisor of Tiger Tours Ltd, on ancient centres of trade in Bangladesh, economic and social implications for the future; (2) Professor Sufi M. Rahman of Jahangirnagar University on international trade in ancient times as evidenced from excavations of Wari Bateshwar and Vikrampur in Bangladesh; and (3) Rosemary Arnott, OBE, Director of the British Council on significance of archaeology in international context-enhancement and conservation.
PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) is a non-profit international tourism organization of 48 independent states for promoting tourism internally and externally and is 60 years old; Skal Club International is an organization of tourism professionals having national clubs in 95 countries and was established in 1935.
The keynote papers were full of historic facts and the presentations were scholarly. Tim Steel, who works as an adviser for Tiger Tours, a Private Organization specializing in tour operation and a specialist in marketing and communication with rich background of such international brands as Sony, Jaguar Car and Liver Brothers knows that the foundation of any successful marketing is, as we may interrogate a product until it confesses its strength. His paper is quite long and for brevity some excerpts from his papers are given here:
“The Southwest Silk Road, may, like its iconic neighbour in Central Asia, have, for centuries, even millennia, seen the transport of immensely valuable cargoes, but that it existed at all seems to be unknown to a wider world. I think I have made clear the basis of our conviction that the lands of Bangladesh contain, and are, perhaps, slowly revealing, a great historic context that might reasonably attract a description as the Singapore of the last few millennia, with largely unrecognized implications for the history of a much wider world. The fascinating work of Sufi M. Rahman at Wari Bateshwar, and I know I am not alone in this belief, confirms the reasonable suspicion long held, that the trade and industry that developed in the Ganges Basin, perhaps as early as the 3rd or 4th Millenia BCE, was not as, hitherto, many have chosen to believe, to what is now the country of India. It seems clear from the evidence of manufacturing, in goods as described by Nayanjot Lahiri in his fascinating work on, ‘The Archaeology of Indian Trade Routes up to 200BC’, were also in production far closer to the Ganges delta from an early time, at least, Wari Bateshwar. Also, the fact that brief references to the English excavation at Egara Sindur in Kishoreganj in 1935, suggests similar material being produced there. This not only seems to confirm the impression gained from other sources already described, of the Ganges delta as a major centre of international trade, but also begins to extend the line of trading centres along the rivers heading north, especially along the line of the Old Brahmaputra. In fact, if we begin to examine other, admittedly more recent evidence, we begin to describe a positive agglomeration of ancient centres of trade within the lands of Bangladesh, which, quite apart from such largely archaeologically unexplored sites as Barisal, Vikrampur, Mograpara, even Sonargaon, and beyond Wari Bateshwar, which is, of course, suggested by Professor Chakrabarti of Cambridge University as identifiable with Sounagaora of the Ptolemaic gazette, and Egarasindur, to Mahasthangarh and Bhitagarh, even brings in such ancient towns as Rajshahi, Rangpur, Chittagong, Sylhet, and even humble Ramu, clearly named on Ptolemy’s map of the 2nd Century. And the plain truth is that all of these centres, even today, have plenty for the interested visitor to visit and explore.”
Ms. Rosemary Arnott, OBE, Director of the British Council in Bangladesh also presented a paper which ungrudgingly praised the archaeological finds of Wari Bateshwar in particular and of Bangladesh in general. She said in her paper “within two weeks of my arrival in Bangladesh, a few months ago, I had a chance meeting with Tim Steel of Tiger Tours Limited. I was thrilled to hear from him about the excavations in Wari Bateshwar. He was kind enough to take me to visit Professor Sufi Rahman of Jahangir Nagar University who is at the forefront of archaeological excavations in Bangladesh now. Professor Rahman’s briefing on archaeology of Bangladesh has transformed my view of this country that I have already come to love and admire. I have no doubt that that meeting at Jahangirnagar University was, in no small part, responsible for the development of my respect and admiration for Bangladesh. Seeing photographs of the artefacts, and the sites of his work in Wari Bateswar made a deep impression on me. This is because I arrived here from Istanbul where I was working for the British Council with responsibilities for regional work in the areas of Asia along the western end of the Silk Road, and parts of Asia Minor, such as Armenia and Mesopotamia. During that assignment in what is often referred to as ‘The Cradle of Civilisation’, I had been privileged to meet, and work with, archaeologists and curators of the vast array of archaeology. In my wildest dreams I did not imagine that, as soon as I arrived in Bangladesh for my next assignment, I would be seeing, touching, and appreciating archaeological finds that was hard for me to distinguish from that I had been seeing in the ‘cradle of civilization’. I am indebted to Tiger Tours for giving me opportunities to meet Professor Sufi Mostafizur Rahman and to visit such sites as Wari Bateswar, Mograpara, Sonargaon and Panam City, Old Dhaka, and even the Ptolemaic town of Ramu, Cox Bazar, with its great history, and such as Shaplapur and Sonadia with their outstanding natural beauty. It was Tim Steel who introduced me to that wonderful quotation from the Holy Prophet, ‘Seek ye knowledge, even unto China’, which both appealed to me as an educationist, and also contextualised what was explained to me about global trade with China from an early time through Bangladesh. I am now a convinced believer in the Southwest Silk Road running through Bangladesh. I just cannot tell you how much I look forward to my years that I anticipate here in Bangladesh, to ‘see’ the rest of the story.”
Professor Sufi Mustafizur Rahman, who has pioneered the excavations of Wari Bateshwar has done considerable research and publications on the site, also spoke in the seminar. With the help of slides he made presentation regarding the artefacts found while digging the site and also from the personal museum of the Pathan family. While making the multimedia presentation he also referred to many international research works which he consulted while making observations about the archaeological finds of Wari Bateshwar. While speaking, he lamented in so many words, that the Wari Bateshwar site is not being properly excavated and protected due to lack of Government funding and attention by the archaeology department of Bangladesh. Before the seminar concluded, the designated discussant Professor Abdul Momin Chowdhury said that it was true that Bangladesh was a rich country few thousand years back and is still a potential country but unfortunately lack of Government attention in developing and projecting the potentials, the treasures are suffering from utter neglect.
The Key notes speakers were honoured by Professor Nazrul Islam, who presided over the meeting, by presenting flower bouquets. Vote of thanks was given, on behalf of Skal International and PATA Bangladesh Chapter, by Shahabuddin Ahmad.
Jason Miklian and Scott Carney
The richest iron mine in India was guarded by 16 men, armed with Army-issued, self-loading rifles and dressed in camouflage fatigues. Only eight survived the night of Feb. 9, 2006, when a crack team of Maoist insurgents cut the power to the Bailadila mining complex and slipped out of the jungle cover in the moonlight. The guerrillas opened fire on the guards with automatic weapons, overrunning them before they had time to take up defensive positions. They didn’t have a chance: The remote outpost was an hour’s drive from the nearest major city, and the fire fight to defend it only lasted a few minutes.
The guards were protecting not only $80 billion-plus worth of mineral deposits, but also the mine’s explosives magazine, which held the ammonium nitrate the miners used to pulverize mountainsides and loosen the iron ore. When the fighting was over and the surviving guards rounded up and gagged, about 2,000 villagers who had been hiding behind the commando vanguard clambered over the fence into the compound and began emptying the magazine. Altogether they carried out 20 tons of explosives on their backs—enough firepower to fuel a covert insurgency for a decade.
Four and a half years after the attack in the remote Indian state of Chhattisgarh, the blasting materials have spread across the country, repackaged as 10-pound coffee-can bombs stuffed with ball bearings, screws, and chopped-up rebar. In May, one villager’s haul vaporized a bus filled with civilians and police. Another destroyed a section of railway later that month, sending a passenger train careening off the tracks into a ravine. Smaller ambushes of police forces on booby-trapped roads happen pretty much every week. Almost all of it, local police told us, can be traced back to that February night.
The Bailadila mine raid was one of India’s most profound strategic losses in the country’s protracted battle against its Maoist movement, a militant guerrilla force that has been fighting in one incarnation or another in India’s rural backwaters for more than 40 years. Over the course of the half-dozen visits we’ve made to the region during the past several years, we’ve come to consider the attack on the mine not just one defeat in the long-running war, but a symbolic shift in the conflict: For years, the Maoists had lived in the shadow of India’s breakneck modernization. Now they were thriving off it.
Only a decade ago, the rebels—often, though somewhat inaccurately, called Naxalites after their guerrilla predecessors who first launched the rebellion in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari in 1967 — seemed to have all but vanished. Their cause of communist revolution looked hopelessly outdated, their ranks depleted. In the years since, however, the Maoists have made an improbable comeback, rooted in the gritty mining country on which India’s economic boom relies. A new generation of fighters has retooled the Naxalites’ mishmash of Marx, Lenin, and Mao for the 21st century, re-branding their group as the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and railing against what the rebels’ spokesman described to us as the “evil consequences by the policies of liberalization, privatization, and globalization.”
India’s Hidden War
Although it has gotten little attention outside South Asia, for India this is no longer an isolated outbreak of rural unrest, but a full-fledged guerrilla war. Over the past 10 years, some 10,000 people have died and 150,000 more have been driven permanently from their homes by the fighting. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a high-level meeting of state ministers not long after the Bailadila raid that the Maoists are “the single greatest threat to the country’s internal security,” and in 2009 he launched a military surge dubbed “Operation Green Hunt”: a deployment of almost 100,000 new paramilitary troops and police to contain the estimated 7,000 rebels and their 20,000-plus—according to our research—part-time supporters. Newspapers run stories almost daily about “successful operations” in which police string up the bodies of suspected militants on bamboo poles and lay out their captured caches of arms and ammunition. Many of the dead are civilians, and the harsh tactics have polarized the country.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way—not in 21st-century India, a country 20 years into an experiment in rapid, technology-driven development, one of globalization’s most celebrated success stories. In 1991, with India on the brink of bankruptcy, Singh—then the country’s finance minister—pursued an ambitious slate of economic reforms, opening up the country to foreign investment, ending public monopolies, and encouraging India’s bloated state-run firms to behave like real commercial ventures. Today, India’s GDP is more than five times what it was in 1991. Its major cities are now home to an affluent professional class that commutes in new cars on freshly paved four-lane highways to jobs that didn’t exist so long ago.
But plenty of Indians have missed out. Economic liberalization has not even nudged the lives of the country’s bottom 200 million people. India is now one of the most economically stratified societies on the planet; its judicial system remains Byzantine, its political institutions corrupt, its public education and health-care infrastructure anaemic. The percentage of people going hungry in India hasn’t budged in 20 years, according to this year’s U.N. Millennium Development Goals report. New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore now boast gleaming glass-and-steel IT centres and huge engineering projects. But India’s vast hinterland remains dirt poor—nowhere more so than the mining region of India’s eastern interior, the part of the country that produces the iron for the buildings and cars, the coal that keeps the lights on in faraway metropolises, and the exotic minerals that go into everything from wind turbines to electric cars to iPads.
If you were to lay a map of today’s Maoist insurgency over a map of the mining activity powering India’s boom, the two would line up almost perfectly. Ground zero for the rebellion lies in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, a pair of neighbouring, mostly rural states some 750 miles southeast of New Delhi that are home to 46 million people spread out over an area a little smaller than Kansas. Urban elites in India envision them as something akin to Appalachia, with a landscape of rolling forested hills, coal mines, and crushing poverty; their undereducated residents are the frequent butt of jokes told in more fortunate corners of the country.
Revenues from mineral extraction in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand topped $20 billion in 2008, and more than $1 trillion in proven reserves still sit in the ground. But this geological inheritance has been managed so disastrously that many locals—uprooted, unemployed, and living in a toxic and dangerous environment, due to the mining operations—have thrown in their lot with the Maoists. “It is better to die here fighting on our own land than merely survive on someone else’s,” Phul Kumari Devi told us when we visited her dusty mining village of Agarbi Basti in June. “If the Maoists come here, then we would ask their help to resist.”
The mines are also cash registers for the Maoist war chest. Through extortion, covert attacks, and plain old theft, insurgents have tapped a steady stream of mining money to pay their foot soldiers and buy arms and ammunition, sometimes from treasonous cops themselves. The result is the kind of perpetual-motion machine of armed conflict that is grimly familiar in places like the oil-soaked Niger Delta, but seems extraordinary in the world’s largest democracy.
This isn’t just an Indian story—it’s a global one. In the wake of Singh’s economic reforms, foreign investment in the country has grown to 150 times what it was in 1991. Among other things, India has opened up its vast mineral reserves to private and international players, and now major global companies like Toyota and Coca-Cola rely on mining operations in the heart of the Maoist war zone. Investors in the region claim that the fighting is taking a toll on their businesses, and Bloomberg News recently estimated that some $80 billion worth of projects are stalled at least in part by the guerrilla war, enough to double India’s steel output.
But in our visits to the region and dozens of interviews there—with miners and politicians, refugees and paramilitary leaders, cops and go-betweens for the guerrillas—we found a far more complex reality. Mining companies have managed to double their production in the two states in the past decade, even as the conflict has escalated; the most unscrupulous among them have used the fog of war as a pretext for land grabs, levelling villages whose residents have fled the fighting. At the same time, the Maoists, for all their communist rhetoric, have become as much a business as anything else, one that will remain profitable as long as the country’s mines continue to churn out the riches on which the Indian economy depends.
The first sign you see as you leave the airport in Jharkhand’s capital city of Ranchi welcomes you to the “Land of Coal,” and indeed, mining underlies every aspect of life here. Seams of coal are visible in the earth alongside the rutted roads that connect the jungle hamlets. Travellers learn to anticipate mines not by any road signs, but by the processions of men pushing bicycles heaped with burlap sacks full of coal: day labourers who pay for the opportunity to scrape the stuff out of thousands of off-the-books mines and sell it door to door as heating fuel, for perhaps a few more dollars a day than they would make as farmers trying to eke out a living from Jharkhand’s depleted soil. (To be continued)
Jason Miklian is a researcher at Peace Research Institute Oslo. Scott Carney is an investigative journalist and contributing editor for Wired. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/08/16/fire_in_the_hole?page=full
Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg
“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has left behind the world of magic and Muggles and written an adult novel.
Publisher Little, Brown startled the book world recently by saying it would publish the book, Ms. Rowling’s first title aimed at adults. Otherwise, the work is shrouded in mystery befitting an author whose seven tales of sorcery have sold more than 450 million copies world-wide.
The title, its publication date, and the subject material won’t be revealed until later this year.
Social media sites lit up with speculation, with fans focusing on a neighbour of Rowling Who said it would “be funny” if the novel turned out to be a “crime story set in Edinburgh.”
As was her style while writing the Potter series, Ms. Rowling was coy about the story line. In a statement, she said “my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series.” She added, “The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me.”
Executives at Little, Brown in the U.S. weren’t available to comment on the acquisition. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
Whatever the new book’s subject, Ms. Rowling’s past success ensures it will be a publishing event. The last title in the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” published in July 2007, sold 11 million copies in its first 24 hours in the U.S.
As a movie series, the “Harry Potter” brand spawned more $20 billion in retail sales for Warner Bros. and its partners.
While the Harry Potter titles were originally aimed at children, they were quickly embraced by adults, much the way that the books of such young adult authors as Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins have also found a wide adult audience.
“Despite the obvious differences, all are great storytellers, weaving stories that have multiple layers of heart and suspense that are not bound by gender or age,” said Rosemary Stimola, a literary agent who represents Ms. Collins, author of “The Hunger Games” trilogy.
Less excited may be the Potter publishers, Scholastic Corp. in the U.S., and Bloomsbury PLC in the U.K., which are missing out on the new book. Ms. Rowling in her announcement said “it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher.”
A spokeswoman for Scholastic said it doesn’t publish adult books, adding, “We are proud to be her U.S. children’s book publisher.”
Bloomsbury said its relationship with Ms. Rowling “remains stronger than ever” and said it will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the first publication of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” on June 26.
Ms. Rowling’s agent, Neil Blair, said he negotiated directly with Little, Brown in the U.K. for world English rights rather than offering the title for auction. Little, Brown also acquired audio-book rights, and e-book rights, a coup in itself given the growth of the digital-book market.
Ms. Rowling kept the digital book rights to her Harry Potter novels and is expected to begin selling Harry Potter e-books on
her website Pottermore later this year.
Little, Brown is an imprint of Lagardère SCA’s Hachette Book Group in the U.S. Elsewhere; the new book will be published by the Little, Brown Book Group in the U.K., and by sister Hachette imprints in Australia, New Zealand and other English-language markets.
Courtesy: The World Street Journal