An open letter to emperor Ashoka


Respected emperor  Ashoka

You were the pioneer king who despite being very cruel  earlier had a change of heart and became one of the most benign, considerate and just king in Indian History.  One of the your earliest edicts was discovered at girnar in Gujarat which had an advice: “Everywhere  within Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi’s domain, and among the people beyond the borders, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputras, the Keralaputras, as far as Tamraparni and where the Greek king Antiochos rules, and among the kings who are neighbors of Antiochos, everywhere has Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals. Wherever medical herbs suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have had them imported and grown. Wherever medical roots or fruits are not available I have had them imported and grown. Along roads I have had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals”.

And as if this was not enough, you added, “Along roads I have had banyan trees planted so that they can give shade to animals and men, and I have had mango groves planted. At intervals of eight //krosas//, I have had wells dug, rest-houses built, and in various places, I have had watering-places made for the use of animals and men. But these are but minor achievements. Such things to make the people happy have been done by former kings. I have done these things for this purpose, that the people might practice the Dhamma”.

I hear so much about dharma of different kind but edicts enunciated in  256 BC still remain a point of standard reference for inclusive development.

In the last few weeks lot of wonderful green lush avenue trees have been whispering in the ear of cool breeze that they are no more sure of being  left alive. You had in fact suggested that even if you were taking food, any news about conflicts or injustice to human or nature, actual or perceived should be brought to your immediate notice. But news of this kind does not travel very far now days.

You will be glad to know that local communities are not against the development process, they don’t mind the widening of the road if that is most essential. But should the road be widened on both the sides, is an innocent question they ask?  They have an alternative plan by which a slide turn and expansion on one side can keep the avenue intact. In some other places, whole trees need to b uprooted and replanted. India has the capability but if needed. A Major Buddhist country can come to our rescue. China has developed planting grown up trees on avenues  into a simple art.
What do we do, Lord Ashoka? Who do we appeal to? Planting the trees, conserving life, watering points and care centres for human and  animal  were part of the world’s first sort of civic charter. But the rulers no more seek ideas from common people, else by now some solution could easily be found to have development and conservation of nature. If assume that traffic moves slowly for a few miles, will not people bless the rulers for letting them look out of window to see beautiful trees, birds, and places to relax under the shade. Why so much rush, for what, for whom? In any case, the traffic in the cities is becoming slower every day?  Assume that some rare minerals are found under the bungalow of governor or chief minister, will we just remove all the nearby settlements for excavating those minerals? Will ashram road be uprooted if oil is found underneath? May be, ask yourself, trees, far away, on the road side, does any one care now, how did you manage to persuade the rulers of smaller kingdoms?

I don’t mind if negotiations are held with people living on the roadside so that they are persuaded to sell part of their land for expansion of the road, if that is must and has no alternative, without cutting trees. You will not be able to see the situation of your edicts today. Pl forgive us, Ashoka, for we could not prove worthy of your legacy, in perpetual apology ……….