The Great Indian Betting Scandal
Posted on 1-June-2013
An international arrest warrant has been issued by Delhi police for the arrest of one Krishna Yadav of Mathura. Krishna, who had been sentenced to ten years in prison for trying to load the dice in a betting game in Delhi had used his guiles and charm on the jail wardens who looked heavenwards and sang his praises while he walked out of the jail. In his youth in Mathura, Krishna had earned great notoriety for his numerous amorous exploits and miscellaneous other adventures including the slaying of his malevolent uncle. Many elders of Mathura had complained to the police against Kirishna's habitually flirtatious advances towards young women in Mathura and its surroundings and some had even accused him of polygamy. Yet the police and the courts were helpless as none of the women would testify against him. Ever since Krishna escaped from jail, the Indian police, armed with the latest gadgetry, ever slouching and ever dawdling, have been on the lookout. Krishna is reported every once in a while to have been sighted in different places but manages to elude the police.
What had happened earlier was this. Two branches of the Kuru clan, owners of vast tracts of land and millions of cattle had gotten into a dispute over the inheritance of ancestral property. Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kaurava branch, aware of the weakness Yudhishthira, the eldest of the five Pandava brothers, had for gambling, had suggested that he and Yudhishthira play a game of dice to decide who would inherit what. Thus the game began in full royal court with Devavrata, the family patriarch, also known as Bhishma, the martial arts teacher Drona, Krishna, family elders and many other relatives and sages in attendance, all eager and excited about a good day's entertainment. Yudhishthira kept betting and losing and finally wagered his share of the inheritance and lost. When he was left with nothing more to lose, Duryodhana suggested he place the Pandavas' comely and polyandrous wife Draupadi on the betting table. It is then that Krishna, moved by Draupadi's entreaties for help tried to load the dice. Devavrata, incensed at being deprived of a proper and clean game of dice and other courtiers, would-be voyeurs, waiting with anticipation to witness the disrobing of Draupadi complained to the police. Yudhishthira was charged with the crime of betting, his brothers with abetting the crime and Krishna with conspiracy to cheat. They were tried and sentenced to various terms in prison. Duryodhana engaged some of the best lawyers in the country and was acquitted of all charges of wrong doing. The Pandava brothers are still serving their jail sentences.
Ever since this betting scandal broke out it has been the subject of all conversations, of daily headlines in newspapers, of raucous discussions in television talk shows. No other news these days attracts any attention. Indian authorities, aware that these feverous discussions in the media, in seminars, in lecture halls and in middle class drawing rooms have cyclical lives, initially tried to ignore the furore. But the followers of Krishna, a cult figure, who apart from being a hero of many popular ballads and songs, is also the author of a major treatise of Hindu philosophy and is considered divine by the multitudes, have been protesting against his arrest and his conviction. The numbers on the streets have been swelling. This forced the Indian government to promise action. Some of the smarter members of the government, with their public personae of prim, puritanical, Victorian Englishmen, proposed enacting a law prescribing long prison terms for betting and cheating on betting--one even suggested cutting off the little fingers of those found to have cheated on betting--and banning even indirect advertisement of betting dens or encouraging betting in any manner and banning the manufacture and sale of the chaupad board. This they said would be in conformity with the ancient civilisational values of India.
These puritanical Indian ministers were stopped in their tracks by one of the most powerful members of the Indian council ministers, himself a lifelong anglophile. He is reported to have asked his colleagues in a meeting of the council of ministers : "Which of you does not gamble once in a while?". No one answered. It was decided after that to appoint a high level committee to study betting laws and practices in west Europe and the USA and propose a law setting out the framework for betting and gambling for a modern, vibrant, rising twenty-first century India. The high level committee has visited France, Italy, the USA and, on the suggestion of its Chairman who loves Robert Browning and has a weakness for strawberries and whipped cream, spent all of April and one half of May this year in Great Britain, studying British law on betting, visiting all of London's betting houses and talking to a cross section of bookies and punters. They have now completed their report in which they have included a draft of a law regulating betting in India--a clone in fact of the British law on the subject--and another law which will enable the Indian government to release Yudhishthira and his brothers and all other gamblers from prisons and to withdraw all cases against Krishna Yadav. The followers of Krishna are delighted. India's political parties and religious organisations, with Maharashtra's Shiv Sena, the Vishva Hindu Parishad and the Jama'at-el-Islami in the forefront, have denounced these proposed moves saying these new laws will corrupt India's youth. When last heard of, the Indian government is determined to implement the recommendations of the high level committee in full. It is reported that in anticipation of the enactment of the new laws, an important hotelier has made preparations for opening ten casinos in Mumbai, Delhi and Goa. It is also reported that a group of Indian government officials has been asked to devise ways of attracting foreign direct investments in gambling establishments of different kinds. All these steps will hopefully dowse the flames of the latest totally distracting controversy over betting.