Assistant inspector general of Tripura Police Arindam Nath’s novel Bridging Minds: A Journey from Mahabharata to Bharata might not rate among the classics. But it relates a few turning points in the epic to the IPC and finds that the Kauravas were harmless compared to the crimes committed by the Pandavas.
Nath tells his story through the diary of protagonist Ashamanja Bhowmik, a medical officer who accompanies the Tripura State Rifles (TSR) during a recruitment rally across the places where Mahabharata was set 3,000 years ago. It also refers to tribal interpretations of the epic, particularly the Bhil version that often tweaks the original.
“The Indian epics fascinate me. But I got the idea of juxtaposing the Mahabharata events with present-day global politics and looking at the epic’s characters through the IPC prism while travelling across northern and central India as chairman of TSR recruitment board in 2008 and interacting with people. Besides, the growing demand for updating the IPC of 1860 vintage made me take it back in time,” Nath said from Tripura capital Agartala.
The IPC, his book says, would have let Dushasan get away with simple punishment for disrobing Draupadi. The vastraharan eventually led to the Kurukshetra war but outraging modesty of a woman is a bailable offence under section 354 of IPC, Nath’s book contends.
The book finds the infallible Bhishma guilty of abducting three sisters – Amba, Ambika and Ambalika – and forcing them into a bigamous marriage with stepbrother Vichitravirya. Another offence for creating a situation for Amba to commit suicide would have translated into a life sentence.
Guru Dronacharya too would have faced the music under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and section 326 of IPC for forcing a minor tribal boy (Eklavya) to sever his thumb, the book contends while marking the Pandavas as bigger offenders.
In the Jatugriha (house of wax) episode, for instance, they violated sections pertaining to arson, luring a backward Nishad family to die in their place and destroying evidence by killing Duryodhana’s accomplice Purochana. Burning down the Khandavprasta forest too invited death sentence.
“In comparison, the Kauravas are offenders of minor crimes such as cattle lifting,” Nath says, arguing that Vidura’s propaganda made the Pandavas more virtuous than they were. “Why then did 59 tribes side with the Kauravas while 38 were with the Pandavas?”
Mahabharata protagonists and IPC sections they would have been booked under
Pandavas: Sections 436 (arson), 302 (mass murder of Nishad family with identical composition to died in their place), 201 (hiding/destroying evidence) and 120-B (conspiracy)
Pandavas: Sections 435/436/302/429 for setting Khandavprastha on fire to build their capital, killing thousands of tribes living in that forest, destroying dwellings, crop and flora and fauna
Surya: Section 376 for ‘raping’ Kunti who did not want a child by him
Kunti: Section 317 for deserting child (Karna by Surya) under 12 and exposing him to danger
Bhishma: Sections 366/494 for abducting three sisters and forcing them to marry stepbrother Vichitravirya, and section 306 for abetting suicide by one of them (Amba)
Dronacharya: Violation of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and offence under section 326 for forcing minor Bhil tribal boy Eklavya to sever his thumb
Krishna: Section 366/494/114 for abetting abduction (of Subhadra by the already married Arjuna) and bigamy
Pandu: Section 304A for causing death of sage Kindama (in guise of a deer) by negligence and section 51 of Wildlife Protection Act for killing an animal
Kindama: Section 377 for unnatural/perverted sex with a deer