No BJP, Rahul Gandhi did not cause the earthquake in Nepal

It is like going to a funeral and proclaiming that the deceased’s neighbours caused the death by cooking ‘bhindi’.

Sakina Hassan May 02, 2015
devastating earthquake clocking in a shocking 7.8 on the Richter scale rocked Nepal on Saturday, killing nearly 4,000 people and injuring 6,000.

As aid and prayers rush towards the afflicted from all over the world, measurements are being taken and reports drafted about aftershocks and future quakes that might occur in the region. Science has come far in the last couple of centuries but man is still, in the grand scale of things, no more than an amoeba, crawling on the surface of a soft-boiled egg still warm out of the pan.

Not everyone was upset, however.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) functionaries Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Prachi insisted that the earthquake in Nepal was caused by Rahul Gandhi’s love of beef and his carelessness in following the proper rituals before entering a holy temple. It is a strange thought that the entire nation of Nepal was selected to pay for such sins while Gandhi (an Indian) remains safe and sound. This thought will probably make meat lovers all over the world wonder as they sit down to enjoy their nihari, steak, meat pie or stew.

Could some country, that has very little to do with me, be suffering for every delicious bite that I take?

Passing over the fact that these remarks are probably the most absurd sound-byte since Rehman Malik’s last press conference, it is disturbing to think that politicians can be this insensitive to human suffering as to use a disaster of this magnitude to disparage a rival. It is rather like going to a funeral, then standing in the middle of the room and proclaiming that the deceased’s neighbours caused the death by cooking ‘bhindi’ on a Saturday.

Of course, everyone is free to believe what they wish. And theoretically, everyone is also free to say what they wish (that’s freedom of speech for you) but an important part of living amongst other human beings is the ability to empathise. One shouldn’t say things that one would not like to hear said. Maybe if there is a natural disaster in India in the future, someone from Nepal will insist it is because of the churches that have been burnt there and that right and fair divine justice has been done.

In fact, only pre-industrial man is able to compete with the sages of BJP in terms of imagination and creativity, and even then the most colourful myths and legends that attempt to explain earthquakes fall short of Hindu fundamentalist callousness.

It is difficult to imagine what the primitive man might have felt the first time he felt the, usually solid and dependable, ground roll underneath his feet, the fear and confusion as they surveyed the after effects; rivers and lakes moving places, mountains altering their physiognomy, entire settlements disappearing.

It is no wonder that some of the most interesting legends and myths from pre-industrial times describe the possible causes behind natural disasters of this sort. Nearly every ancient culture has stories to explain how and why earthquakes occur.

In Japan, it was believed that the islands rested on the back of a giant catfish, Namazu, under the sea with a demigod holding it still with a giant keystone. If the demigod relaxed his guard or slackened his hold, the catfish would shake or flip over causing an earthquake.

The ancient Greeks credited the wrath of Poseidon, god of the sea, with earthquakes. In another legend, earthquakes were supposed to be caused by strong winds in caverns deep underground as they attempted to escape.

Norse legend describes earthquakes as the result of the punishment of Loki, god of mischief (this one isn’t nearly as family friendly as the one in Avengers). He is tied to a rock in a cave underground with a snake dripping venom over him as punishment for killing his brother Baldur. His sister holds up a bowl underneath the poison to protect her brother and, with sisters being unreliable even when they have god-like powers, she must leave now and then to empty the bowl. When she does this, Loki struggles to avoid the poison, causing the ground to shake.

The whims of capricious gods were sources of natural disasters in other cultures as well. A Latvian myth explains that the Earth is carried by a god called Drebkuhls as he walks amongst the heavens. In performing his task, he sometimes gets a little ‘carried away’ and handles the earth a little too roughly causing tremors.

Members of a Peru tribe, the Maimas, believed that when their god visited the earth to count his people, his footsteps caused the ground to shake. To keep the disruption to a minimum, they would, in case of an earthquake, run out of their houses shouting,
“I’m here, I’m here!”

Another Central American story is a little darker. The Earth is held up by its corners by four gods, and whenever things get too crowded, they simply tip the ground to get rid of surplus population.

African myths dealing with earthquakes are as varied as the African culture itself. East Africans believed that a giant fish carried a stone on its back, a cow stood on the stone and held up the flat disk-shaped world on one of her horns. Whenever the cow’s neck ached she would toss the world onto her other horn.

On the other hand, West African myths explain that all life exists on the head of a giant, crawling like parasites amongst its hair (that’s the vegetation). The giant is generally content with sitting in one place, facing the east, but now and then he gets up and runs to the west causing the jolts to be felt as earthquakes. Some versions of the story say that the giant does not run, he sneezes or twitches his head and the results are felt by us all.

Indian myths, due to a continuous influx of new cultures, also have several versions to explain earthquakes. One says that the earth is held up by four elephants that stand on the back of a turtle, which in turn is balanced on a cobra. When either of these move, the ground shakes. Another speaks of the seven serpents that share the task of guarding the seven sections of the lowest heaven. They also take turns holding up the earth. As the burden of the world is transferred from one to the other, earthquakes occur.

Today, of course, science has revealed the cause of earthquakes to be the movement of tectonic plates. Yet natural disasters continue to be attributed to the divine punishment and the ‘wrath of god’.

Unlike scientists, however, no one who forwards this view is really in a position to prove their point and the fact always remains that there really exists no nation that is more steeped in evil than any other so as to merit such punishment any more than the rest, or so pious and pure as to avoid it should such a punishment be meted out.
WRITTEN BY:
Sakina Hassan The author is currently studying for an Mphil degree at the Centre of Excellence in Solid State Physics.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (48)

mahwish | 6 years ago | Reply this is so stupid
Sane | 6 years ago | Reply ISI created the quake that jolted Indian part. I wonder why Indian media is not trumpeting this 'undeniable' fact. Modi must move a resolution in UN General assembly and offer TEA to the Secretary General of UN.
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