Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

A plural past under modern siege

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

M. Veerappa Moily

Successive bands of foreigners — Greeks, Parathions, Scythians and Turks (Kushanas) — came as invaders and were ultimately absorbed in India. They were completely merged into Indian society and adopted the language, religion and customs of the land without retaining any trace of their foreign origin. This reveals to us the catholicity of Hindu society of that period, in sad and striking contrast to the narrow rigidity and exclusiveness, which characterised it at a later age.

There is other evidence to show that the Hindu society of this age was a living organism, which could adapt itself to new environment and changing circumstances. An impression is sought to be — or is being — created that the future of India’s secular polity is at stake. This is highly misleading, if not mischievous. Excesses of this kind only give an erroneous impression to the outside world that India’s pluralist and liberal mindset is under siege, that we have surrendered our glorious inheritance, and have now embarked on a process of undermining our historical experience of successfully managing a multiethnic, multi-religious, multi-caste society and policy.

This is not for the first time that we have faced such challenges; in every such case in the past, reason and logic have triumphed. Our belief in our unity in diversity has never wavered over the years. There is no reason why this time the situation is different. The basic feature of a modern civilised society is that people belonging to different ethnic or religious groups should be able to live together with dignity, respecting each other’s rights, religions and cultures without subjecting any group or groups to hatred or ridicule or mental torture to them.

It must always be remembered that the citizenry is uniformly subject to the tax laws of the country, regardless to his caste, creed or religion, and contributes to the revenue of the state and is therefore entitled to equal treatment under the law from the state and its various instrumentality.

In a pluralistic society, where people respect each other, where there is opportunity for a free flow of ideas, a meeting of minds, this alone can generate an atmosphere conducive to national growth and integration. Hatred and intolerance are bound to vitiate the atmosphere and stifle economic growth. If a section of the population is discriminated against and denied participation in developmental activities, there will not be any ‘‘unity of purpose’’ and we will be drifting in different directions. Secularism suits the genius of a multi-religious, multi-caste and multi-lingual country like India best. The secular ethos, furrowed deep by Mahatma Gandhi in the minds of India, nurtured a sense of tolerance that had kept society together as well as democratic.

We are one of the poorest nations in the world. Most of our erstwhile third-world brethren have left us far behind. The need of the day is to show laser-focus on economic development. For such progress, we need an environment of peace, unity, enthusiasm and hope. If we start the divisive mindset, there will be no end to this — North Indians will discriminate against South Indians; Tamil against Telugu; right against the left; educated vs the uneducated; the rich vs the poor; the urban vs the rural, and so on. This is a one-way street with no u-turn; it has no upsides, only downsides. We should stop thinking in terms of leaders of a community, and think only of leaders of the nation. Moreover, we have to create a system where people elect leaders for their performance rather than their caste or religion. Modern, successful leadership is all about dealing with the contemporary and the future. It is not about fighting for relics, icons and ideas of the past. As we have seen, a nation is judged by its contemporary status and not by its past. We have to vigorously work towards economic progress so that the youth have hope in the future. As Aristotle has said ‘‘Hope is a waking dream’’. Our leaders have to send the message of tolerance, love and affection to the youth of the country through vivid examples. Ethnic and religious conflicts threaten to tear apart more societies today than any other issue. These conflicts rise out of identity movements that construct an enemy ‘other’ and characterise themselves as nationalist even though they are based on exclusionist agendas. Since these movements do not adhere to democratic norms they seek to achieve their goals through private armies or militias. Just like religion has been used by militants to enforce identity politics so as fundamentalist forces mix religion and militancy to mobilise civil society. The threat of multiple fundamentalism and the militia has torn apart many countries.

Hindu tradition is based not on acceptance of particular gods, dogmas, revelations and religious structures but on reverence for Dharma which is the rule of law and the ethics of the age. Dharma is not immutable but is liable to change to be in consonance with changing times — hence, the concept of Yuga Dharma. Today’s ethics, formulated by the constitution is secularism — that is the Yuga Dharma. When on January 13, 1948, Gandhi began what was to be the last fast of his life. Sardar Patel acknowledged that communal hate and violence had driven Gandhi to the extreme step, and when during the fast he heard some people demanding the expulsion of Muslims from India, the Sardar responded with these words: ‘‘You have just now heard people shouting that Muslims should be removed from India. Those who do so have gone mad with anger. Even a lunatic is better than a person who is mad with rage.’’

Consequently, the rights of the minorities to their culture and religion and the right to be protected against majoritarianism, were recognised as far back as 1928 in the Motilal Nehru Draft Constitution. Subsequently, Jawaharlal Nehru, writing a note on minorities in Young India on May 15, 1930, was to state that ‘‘the history of India and of many of the countries of Europe has demonstrated that there can be no stable equilibrium in any country so long as an attempt is made to crush a minority or force it to conform to the ways of the majority.

It matters little whether logic is on its side or whether its own particular brand of culture is worthwhile or not.’’ On May 25, 1949, Sardar Patel tabled the report of the Advisory Committee in the Constituent Assembly. ‘‘We wish to make it clear, however, that our general approach to the whole problem of the minorities is that the state should be so run that they should stop feeling oppressed by the mere fact that they are minorities and that on the contrary, they should feel that they have as honourable a part to play in the national life as any other section of the community.’’

The entire approach and thinking, moulded by Gandhiji, was to not mix religion with politics or the state. He said: ‘‘Religion is a personal matter, which should have no place in politics.’’ When he said that politics would be based on religion, he meant that it should have a moral foundation in dharma, not religion in the sense we generally use the term.

Pluralism was woven into the warp and woof of Indian society. Those who participated in the movement for Independence had a dream: ‘‘When India attains her destiny, she will forget the present chapter of communal suspicion and conflict and face the problems of modern life from a modern point of view. Differences will no doubt persist, but they will be economic, not communal. Opposition among political parties will continue, but they will be based not on religion but on economic and political issues. Class and not community will be the basis of future alignments and policies will be shaped accordingly.’’ Each incursion of foreign elements was a challenge to this culture, but it was met successfully by a new synthesis and a process of absorption. This was also a process of rejuvenation and new blooms of culture arose out of it.

Max Muller, the famous scholar and Orientalist, emphasised this : ‘‘There is, in fact, an unbroken continuity between the most modern and the most ancient phases of Hindu thought, extending over more than three thousand years. If we were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power, and beauty that nature can bestow — in some parts a very paradise on earth — I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solution of some of them which will deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant — I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective, which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life, not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life — again I should point to India.’’

Aurobindo Ghose added a sad note: ‘‘If an ancient Indian of the time of the Upanishad, of the Buddha, or the later classical age were to be set down in Modern India... he would see his race clinging to forms and shells and rags of the past and missing nine tenths of its nobler meaning he would be amazed by the extent of the mental poverty, the immobility, the static repetition, the cessation of science, the long sterility of art, the comparative feebleness of the creative intuition.’’ India should learn lessons of history.

The message of the Gita is not sectarian or addressed to any particular school of thought. It is universal in its approach for everyone, ‘‘all paths lead to Me’’, it says. It is because of this universality that it has found favours with all classes and schools. Let us not limit the universal territory of Indian creed with sectarian, caste and religious fireballs of volcano.

(The writer is former Chief Minister of Karnataka and Chairman of the Revenue Reforms Commission)


Saturday, January 25, 2003

Secularization of India…?

Author: S. Balasundar
Publication: Hindu Voice

Introduction: An MLA, C.P Shaji, said in Kerala Assembly: ‘The hand that touches even a syllable of the Shariat will be chopped off then and there (‘Mathrubhumi” July 3,’85)

Secularization was first used at the end of thirty years war in Europe, 1648, to refer to the transfer of Church properties to the exclusive control of the premises. George Holyoke, in 1851 coined the term 'secularism' and led a socialist movement of protest in England.

One of the Indian authors on the subject put it this way, 'Man lives at three levels, personal, inter-personal and institutional… the last assuming a variety of forms such as educational, social, economic, political and many others that can be easily think of. Secularism, thus would require the decisions one takes at any of these levels are governed by considerations which do not stem from religious belief or dogma of any kind.

Pandit Nehru, our Prime minister, to take office of first Swadeshi Government wrote in “Discovery of India”, “Religions have helped greatly in the development of humanity. They have laid down values and standards and have pointed out principles for the guidance of human life. But, with all good they have done, they have also tried to imprison truth in set forms and dogmas and encouraged ceremonies and practices, which soon lose all their original meaning and become routine” He went on to state: Religion, though it has undoubtedly brought comfort to innumerable human beings and stabilized society by its values has checked the tendency to change and progress inherent in human society.'

With his English education background and thought emphasis laid on men like German philosopher Max Mueller, and the like he could possibly have formed such personal opinion, undoubtedly. Whereas our great monk, Swami Vivekananda, who traveled the length and breadth of our land, studied the culture and traditions of the people living in nook and corner of India and who confabulated with many a common man and went to represent Hindu Religious Conference at Chicago in 1880, had put it emphatically that “the Indian mind is first religious, than anything else.” ('Future of India').

Swamiji wrote “The political systems that we are struggling for India have been in Europe for ages, have been tried for centuries, and have been found wanting. One after another, the institutions, systems and everything connected with political government have been condemned as useless and Europe is restless, does not know where to turn. It is hopeless and perfectly useless to attempt to govern mankind with the sword”. Swamiji's prophecy ca me at a time when India did not get the inkling of freedom from the British.
He said: “Everything goes to show that socialism or some form of rule by the people, is coming on the, boards. The people will certainly want the satisfaction of their material needs, less work, no oppression, no war, more food. What guarantee have - we that this or any other civilizations, will last, unless it is based on religion, on the goodness of man?” Depend on it, Religion goes to the root of the matter, exhorted Swami Vivekananda.

After the unseating of Smt. Gandhi by the Allahabad High Court verdict in 1975 March and consequent clamping of the emergency, she brought in omnibus amendment Bill to destroy the basic features of the Constitution. She even defaced the basic rule book of governance by inserting the words. “Secular and socialist” in the Preamble. Even then, what had really happened? Encou-raging communalism instead of secularism, was the watchword for the Congress irrespective of whose initial was added as tag to the party's name! The reversal of Supreme Court verdict on Shah Banoo's case was a severe blow to the cause of secularism.

An MLA, C.P Shaji, said in Kerala Assembly: 'The hand that touches even a syllable of the Shariat will be chopped off then and there.' {‘Mathrubhumi’ July 3,’85.} and a strong section of conservative Muslims demanded the setting of Shariat Court, here.!

Syed Shabuddin wrote: 'the nation is yet to reach a consensus on the shariat and nothing but the shariat, in order to protect their religious identity which in the contemporary Indian milieu, the Muslim community perceives as being in the state of siege (Onlooker 1/15,'86).

The correct position however, remains as written by Arun Shourie, in his essay (Weekly, 5/1/86): “First to note, is under our Constitution, the very nature of the state, no religious or other group has any inherent or perpetual right to insist that it will be governed by the laws that apply to the generality of citizens. Second, every tradition has much that is valuable, just as every tradition; whether it was progressive. The excellent of the tradition on one point is no justification for continuing an inequity on another.

All this reaction are because for the Supreme Court judgement which said “that under Sec. 125 of Cr. P.C the husband had to provide for a divorced wife who had no means of livelihood.” It also said that such, provision was in keeping'-with the spirit of the Koran which enjoined a man to look after his wife.

Significantly, this judgement also made a reference to the need for enacting a common civil code as envisaged in Article 44 of our Constitution. The government did not talk at all about the observation for a civil code! No congress government ever spoke of a directive principle which enjoins the State to enact a Uniform Civil Code. This had certainly blemished their talk of secular democracy and all that virtues accompanying the democracy. Appeasement of the minorities continued unabated.

If Nehru had a vision of the nation, smacking by not looking into the past, which he believed checked the progress', Swami Vivekananda said that the past is built into the future! Swamiji's philosophy was... 'Look back, therefore, as far as you can, drink deep of the eternal fountains that are behind, and after that, look forward, much forward, march forward and make India brighter, greater, much higher than she ever was... We must go to the root of this disease and cleanse the blood of all impurities.” Swamiji had put immense faith on our religion. 'To my mind', says he, (that is my argument why) our religion is truer than any other religion, because it never conquered. Because it never shed blood, because its mouth always shed on all, words of blessing, of peace, words of love and sympathy. It is here and here alone that the ideals of toleration were first preached. And it is here and here alone that toleration and sympathy become practical; it is theoretical in every other country; it is here and here alone, that the Hindu builds mosques for the Mohammedans and churches for the Christians.”

That is the simple truth. If the history is not distorted, the forbearance of the Hindu community, will stand aloft, among the world communities! That is the only consolation for the secularism to prevail in India, by now. The moot point, however, is whether our representatives in the legislatures are made or moulded by the real public opinion? Are they made accountable at all? Do they appreciate the values of democracy? Do they allow the other sides viewpoint, leave alone the appreciation of the traditions?

Rajiv Gandhi, when out of power, began his election campaign in 1980, after performance of puja at Ayodhya but when it came to the core issue of the Ram temple, the entire Congress regime made it flip-flop game! In the context of the Ayodhya, being made an issue by the Government, an eminent Scholar of our times, HH Swami Satyananda Saraswati ridicules our regimes so far. 'The policies of the Indian Government were contradictory to the aim of uniting all sections of the people by a stream of thought'. The events at Ayodhya could have been avoided if the record proving that the miserable disputed structure is temple building itself were placed be fore the nations of the world for creating an impartial world opinion.!!!


Monday, January 20, 2003

Indian Secularism Vs. American Secularism:

Source: The Axis of Neocolonialism
by Rajiv Malhotra

One serious misunderstanding amongst this milieu of elitist Indians has been their confused interpretation of secularism. The USA is a good nation with which to compare India in matters of secularism. It does not define secularism as alienation from its traditions. Even though tracing back American civilization to the Greeks is a big stretch, this link and continuity is emphasized. Certainly, the Judeo-Christian foundation of Americanism is made loud and clear. Recently, there is a new movement to rediscover the Native American heritage as being part of the New Americanism. On the other hand, secularism in India has come to mean anti Indic Traditions, especially anti-Hinduism.

To get certified that they are secular, many Indians line up to prove how they hate Hinduism, or at least how distant they are from what they perceive as a denigrated identity. The historian, Ronald Inden explains the root cause of this dis-ease:

"Nehru's India was supposed to be committed to 'secularism'. The idea here in its weaker publicly reiterated form was that the government would not interfere in 'personal' religious matters and would create circumstances in which people of all religions could live in harmony. The idea in its stronger, unofficiallv stated form was that in order to modernize, India would have to set aside centuries of traditional religious ignorance and superstition and eventually eliminate Hinduism and Islam from people's lives altogether. After Independence, governments implemented secularism mostly by refusing to recognize the religious pasts of Indian nationalism, whether Hindu or Muslim, and at the same time (inconsistently) by retaining Muslim 'personal law'."

This agenda, built on a false definition of secularism, has been taken to such extremes that Sanskrit has been demonized, because it is seen as part of the Evil Brahmin Conspiracy to oppress all the victims of contemporary Indian society. Jawaharlal Nehru University, one of India's elite institutions in the liberal arts, and the seminary that produces many of these maladjusted intellectuals, has fought hard to resist the establishment of a Sanskrit and Indian Classics department, whereas it is proud of its faculty and curriculum in a wide variety of European languages and civilizations.

This is the result of sheer ignorance about the scope and value of Sanskrit literature. Indologists believe that there are over 30 million distinct manuscripts in Sanskrit, mostly not cataloged, with less than one percent ever translated into a non Indian language. The vast majority of Sanskrit texts is not about "religion," and covers a diverse territory of subjects - medicine, botany, aesthetics, fiction, jokes, sex, political thought, logic, mathematics, and so forth.

Sanskrit was the language of scholarship for a period of several millennia, in the same manner as English has become over the past century. To demonize and suppress this language and its vast literature, in the name of political correctness, is a tragedy against all humanity. Yet this is precisely what has been done for 50 years after India's independence.

Hinduism and Indian secularism

Hinduism applauds diversity and consequently accepts that people of different temperaments, circumstances and levels of understanding develop different viewpoints and different forms to express event the same viewpoint.

The fundamental mistake of Indian secularism is that Hinduism is put in the same category as Islam and Christianity. The definition of "religion" which is implied when we call Islam and Christianity religions, may well not apply to Hinduism, and vice versa. Islam and Christianity are defined, by believers as well as by informed outsiders as belief systems; Hinduism is not so defined (except by incompetent outsiders and some of their neo-Hindu imitators who try to cast Hinduism into the mould of Christianity. Islam's and Christianity's intrinsic irrationality and hostility to independent critical thought warranted secularism as a kind of containment policy. By contrast, Hinduism recognizes freedom of thought and does not need to be contained by secularism.

Historically, Hindus have quickly recognized Islam and Christianity as mleccha, barbaric predatory religions, not as instances of Dharma to which any respect is due. Until Swami Dayananda Saraswati, they didn't even consider these religions as worthy of a detailed critique. Hinduism as a whole gives a place in the sun to all. It never was anti-logical nor anti-realistic; therefore, it never required people to muzzle both their rational faculty and their temperamental inclinations.

The Christian Church must be counted among Hindutva's most determined enemies. Much of the negative image, which the BJP has acquired internationally, is due to the lasting powerful impact of the Churches on the information stream concerning the Third World. In quarrels between the Hindutva forces and the Muslims or the secularists, the Christian institutions are invariably on the anti-Hindu side. There are also Christian armed separatist movements in Nagaland and Mizoram, which are openly supported by the World Council of Churches and by a number of Catholic institutions.

(source: Bharatiya Janata Party vis-a-vis Hindu Resurgence - By Koenraad Elst p. 9-10 and 105).


Saturday, January 04, 2003

ABC of pseudo-secularism

Author: Vijay Kumar Malhotra
Publication: The Hindustan Times

A tribe of pseudo-secularists in India have arrogated to themselves the right of expressing their views even in the textbooks for children.

It does not bother their conscience if the subject of their writings is history relating to events of national importance. They float on intellectual pride on an assumed self-righteousness. They smugly close their eyes on the monstrous lies perpetrated by sadist elements among our erstwhile imperial rulers or the prejudiced communal minds of past historians, whose overpowering desire was to distort our legacy, denigrate our social norms and destroy our national pride.

As part of the same tradition, some of our recent so-called historians and over-rated intellectuals tried to repeat the myths in our textbooks, which had the potential of poisoning the young minds with wrong assertions and blurred interpretations of the otherwise poignant episodes in our chequered history. The Romila Thapars, Satish Chandras and their clan, refused to budge from their arrogant versions and insisted on the correctness of their prescriptions as an inscription on the wall. On wider inquiry and deeper scrutiny, it could be found that they were misguided by superficial sources and did not have any unimpeachable historical authority to rely upon.

Perhaps, they were too keen to appear liberal among the present generation of Indians to ingratiate themselves to a class of people inside and outside the country so inimical to us. It did not matter to them that as 'historians' it was their duty to correct the past mistakes and to put things in the correct perspective. Their social conceit stood in the way of taking remedial action which could have easily been done without raising so much dust of controversy.

It is in this context that the NCERT had to remove certain portions from the textbooks to clear the cobwebs of prejudice and ignorance. One of the gems of Satish Chandra related to the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru of the Sikhs, in 1675. He is a saintly figure in the Sikh faith, who made the supreme sacrifice to save the much-oppressed Hindu community from the bigotry of Aurangzeb. Many a chronicle has been written about the inextinguishable thirst of the Mughal ruler to forcibly convert Hindu droves. Even the tenth guru, Guru Govind Singh, in his autobiography, Bachittar Natak, has ascribed the execution of his holy father in Delhi's Chandni Chowk to his noble effort to protect the frontal mark (tilak) and the sacred thread (janeyu) of the Hindus.

And look at Satish Chandra's version in his history book on medieval India for Class XI. According to him, after the return of the guru from Assam, in association with one Hafiz Khan, he resorted to plundering and raping, laying waste the whole province of Punjab. And he attributes this to some unspecified Persian source. He adds that according to Sikh tradition, the guru's execution was due to intrigues of some members of his family.

Chandra mentions the cause of Aurangzeb's annoyance with the guru to his act of converting a few Muslims to Sikhism! He does not say a word about the countless conversions carried out by the fanatic ruler. It is for the people of India to assess such historians, who unwittingly or deliberately, impose their interpretations on the masses.

According to Romila Thapar in her book (Class VI), for special guests, beef was served as a mark of honour. According to Arjun Dev and Indira Arjun Dev (Modern India, Class VIII), Jats founded their state at Bharatpur from where they conducted plundering raids in the regions around and participated in court intrigues in Delhi. Some other diseased minds of the so-called historians have denied the existence of Lord Rama at Ayodhya and Lord Krishna in Mathura around 2000 BC and 200 BC-300 AD respectively. These are not only attempts to create confusion, but to strike at the roots of the Hindu heritage.

Who are the protagonists of such theories to demolish the faith in Hinduism? The communists - whose atheism takes them to the portals of hatred for the Hindu way of life. They were against the freedom of India from foreign rule. And when freedom came, the Communist Party of India sent a delegation to Stalin of the Soviet Union to help them in a coup against the government of India, as they perceived the Hindu ethos as the single biggest bulwark against communism in this country.

Everything that the NDA government does for the nation is dubbed as an effort at 'saffronisation'. And this effort may be aimed at only removing the vestiges of falsehood in the history books for our children.
It is paradoxical that even after the Supreme Court has dismissed a petition filed by some misguided persons, the latter have dug their heals in refusing to accept the verdict. Sonia Gandhi has gone on record saying that her party would not accept the curriculum developed by NCERT and the schools in states ruled by the Congress would continue with the old curricula. That hits the nail on the head of a party which has been claiming to be the conscience-keeper of the nation and a tool for progressive change.

It was nothing short of blasphemy on the part of another Congress boss, Salman Khurshid, who said on TV that Sita was not from India. One wonders if there is a coordinated plan among the Congress bigwigs to distort Hindu mythology and history. They seem to be taking their 'secularism' a bit too far, as they are trying to trample over the Hindu tradition.

It would be best to let the Congress and their cohorts stew in their own juice. With the verdict of the apex court, the ghost of saffronisation has been laid to rest. A new dawn is beginning in the horizon of school education. It would now be possible to give the students an insight into multiculturism, social rights and human values. A new initiative is in the offing to build scientific temper among children. The anchor of education would be the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and the thought of our national leaders.
One can only hope that the present Congress president would not claim exclusive rights to the philosophy of the Mahatma. Her party has done enough to denigrate what Hinduism stands for.

Recounting the Supreme Court verdict, 'value education', based on the good points of all religions, will contribute to the building of a secular ethos. But the Congress thinks otherwise. They are calling the verdict just a legal victory and not a real one. Their convoluted minds view every good thing done by the NDA government as furthering the 'Hindutva' agenda, as if it were a hoodoo.

The coming elections are not going to take place on the Hindutva plank. What the BJP believes in is to strengthen the nation's unity on the basis of undivided loyalty to the nation, adherence to its territorial integrity and the agreed economic reforms. But the pseudo-secularists try to exploit even a tragic event to reap a short-term advantage.

It would be pertinent to ask the Leftists to set their own house in West Bengal in order, where the education policy is highly backward. Let them rewrite their books full of jaundiced information on India's past. Let them rectify their own blunders before upbraiding the NDA government's efforts to rationalise education.
If the Congress and the Communists have the good of the nation at heart, let them remove their blinkers and see the direction in which the country wants to go. Let them eschew obscurantism and megalomania and be humble to strengthen the nation's unity and well-being.

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