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.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

One man two votes if you are a minority

By Sandhya Jain

In India’s troubled history, religious quotas have been a sensitive issue. Religious reservations in the political sphere resulted in Partition as Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League would not reconcile to living under a system of one-man one-vote, which would deprive the Muslims of the communal weightage they enjoyed under the Raj.

In the circumstances, it was extremely shortsighted of the Congress leadership to perpetuate the sense of religious identity as a sole identity marker among communities that received special patronage from previous political dispensations. Whereas persecuted people, such as Syrian Christians, Jews, Parsis, Bahais, Tibetan Buddhists, who settled in India, faced no problems in preserving their distinct cultures while living in peace with their neighbours, the false notion that Muslims and Christians needed or deserved special constitutional concessions to protect their identities fostered an unhealthy sense of separatism amongst them.

The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Y. Samuel Rajshekhar Reddy’s decision to press ahead with 5 per cent reservations for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions, despite a previous rebuff by the High Court, is a regressive measure by any yardstick. Blanket quotas are a poor instrument to deal with the alleged backwardness of any group, and religious quotas can only aggravate tensions between the various communities.

Y. Samuel Rajshekhar Reddy’s decision to press ahead with 5 per cent reservations for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions, despite a previous rebuff by the High Court, is a regressive measure by any yardstick.

It is unbelievable that YSR pushed ahead with this explosive measure without an explicit nod from the Congress high command. The Chief Minister has not shown the desire to fulfill any other electoral pledge, most notably a separate Telengana state, which contributed immensely to the party’s victory. Yet, after the High Court placed technical hurdles in the way of the communal quota, YSR reconstituted the State Backward Classes Commission and asked it to remove the technical glitches in his path.

Within three days of being armed with the desired recommendations, he pronounced a 5 per cent quota, taking the total percentage of reservation in Andhra Pradesh to 51 per cent. As a sop, it was said that the so-called ‘creamy layer’ of the community, that is, children of parents with an annual income of Rs 2.5 lakh and above and children of Class I and II officers of the Central Government and judges of the Supreme Court, High Court and UPSC members, would be outside the purview of the said quotas.

This actually raises more questions than it answers. As Muslims constitute around 8.5 per cent of the state’s population, it is inexplicable that they should receive a whopping 5 per cent quota. If reservations are to be given on the basis of social or economic backwardness, these should be the only criterion for reservations, as every religious group has backward citizens and no religious group is backward in totality. In fact, the exclusion of the ‘creamy layer’ from reservation benefits makes sense only if the yardstick is economic or social backwardness rather than religious identity per se.

In this context, it needs to be reiterated that when reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were first mooted in the Constituent Assembly, it was for the specific reason that a mixture of historical-social factors had contributed to the present social, economic and educational backwardness of these groups. Hence, they were also given the benefit of political reservations. So while these groups were part of the Hindu society, the Hindus as a whole were not declared backward, as has now happened in the case of Andhra Pradesh Muslims. Yet, the State also admits that many Muslims do not deserve reservations.

If reservations are to be given on the basis of social or economic backwardness, these should be the only criterion for reservations, as every religious group has backward citizens and no religious group is backward in totality.

Some people have questioned the very claim of Muslim ‘backwardness’ in education as Muslim minority trusts run as many as 27 engineering colleges and two medical colleges in the state, and these in turn reserve 50 per cent of their seats for Muslim students. Since these trusts would also have received several economic concessions from the state government, it appears that educational reservations for Muslims in their own minority trusts and also in general institutions is a double benefit; it will deprive meritorious students of other groups.

As parties gear up to contest the issue of communal reservations in Court, some people claim that the Christian community allegedly corners a large percentage of benefits intended for STs/SCs by producing fake SC or ST certificates for admission to IIT and other professional courses, as well as for government employment. As neither Christianity nor Islam definitionally provides for caste identities, and in fact makes converts on the plea that conversion would attenuate caste disabilities, such a situation is untenable. Yet it is utterly believable as former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and his son, Amit, are embroiled in a controversy over the genuineness of their ST certificates in the light of their Christian identity. The matter is serious and calls for remedial action on a nationwide basis.

Clearly YSR has acted at the behest of his party supremo to set the ball rolling on the issue of political reservations for Muslims. Close on the heels of educational and job reservations, he announced reservations for Muslims in local bodies. If these are extended to the state assembly, it will be obvious that when the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind sought reservations in Parliament and state legislatures at a public rally in Delhi recently, it was not merely whistling in the dark. It may in fact have had a secret dialogue with Congress president, Sonia Gandhi and other leaders before voicing such an outrageous demand.

Before things reach such a sorry pass, there may still be time to return to the fact that reservations have always been intended to be a transitional measure. Today, with upper caste Brahmins seeking refuge with Dalit ki beti Mayawati, the very raison d’etre of caste-based reservations falls by the wayside. Religion-based reservations are totally illegitimate.

“We have had one year of total UPA nonsense” -George Fernandes

Exclusive Interview to Organiser Correspondent Pramod Kumar

NDA convenor Shri George Fernandes feels that he will tell the world what exactly Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship was and now what kind of threats our democracy is facing in the country. In an exclusive interview to Organiser correspondent Pramod Kumar, Shri Fernandes said the UPA government must be exposed on the issue of price rise, misrule, threat to national security and Sonia Gandhi's emergence as an unconstitutional power centre. “We have had one year of total nonsense, in fact one year of total breach of promise. We should use every means at our disposal to mobilise people,” he said, adding that Sonia Gandhi’s emergence as an unconstitutional power centre was going to destroy the democratic polity of the country. Excerpts:

On the 30th anniversary of Emergency, are you planning to organise a campaign to make people aware of the black deeds of Smt Indira Gandhi?

I have started it long back. I have been speaking about it on every occasion that I get. For the next few days, there will be a series of meetings all over the country. In Bangalore, we are going to have a major demonstration and a meeting, which will be attended by Atalji, Advanji and lot of people who were put in jail, to tell the world what exactly Smt. Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship was and now what kind of threats our democracy is facing.

“Siachin is crucial to our security. It's unimaginable how PM said what he said.”

You along with RSS and other nationalist organisations were instrumental in fighting Emergency. How do you see the second emergence of the Gandhi family on the Indian political scene?

When there was a kind of talk in the country that after Nehru who, a lot of names were being bandied about. Dr Ram Manohar Lohia had come to Mumbai at that time. I was then the secretary of Bombay unit of Socialist Party. We held a press conference wherein the press asked Dr Lohia, “Sir, after Nehru who?” Dr Lohia said, “Aren’t you aware? After Nehru, Indira Gandhi! He has made an arrangement for that. He is grooming her for that and you people have not seen that.” It was taken as a joke then. So, the khandaan was planned by Pandit Nehru, carried on by Indira Gandhi and now another generation is sought to be brought in. Everything this family has done is for holding the country to ransom. What they are doing is essentially for this reason. They have nothing to do with democracy. They don’t care for democracy and that is why the Emergency was imposed. When Indira Gandhi realised that even within her own party there were people who would knock her out, she decided to go in for a dictatorship. But we fought against it and also felt that such a situation should not arise again in our country. When I say such a situation, it is not just Emergency, but what the country had to go through during the Emergency. Even the right to life had been taken away. I remind it to those who want to know my credentials. They are shameless fellows, utterly shameless.

Don’t you think the Opposition has failed in highlighting the emergence of Smt. Sonia Gandhi as an unconstitutional power centre?

Yes, it is an unconstitutional power centre. Nobody has to make any declaration on it. She is not a constitutional authority at all. And it is the eternal shame for the Congress party as it has brought the country to this kind of situation. This can have serious consequences for our democracy. There is a Prime Minister but there are different people to take the salute. I don’t think this can happen anywhere in the world. I do not know what we have become, thanks to the Congress party’s way of functioning.

Do you think that Dr Manmohan Singh’s government will be able to get away with the price rise, Hurriyat visit to Pakistan and Sonia Gandhi’s Russia visit?

What is really of concern is the price rise. These people came to power by making a lot of promises knowing that they were lying to the people. They claimed that they would give job to every family, would give extra funding to farmers, etc. But nothing has happened. The farmers are committing suicide everyday. Practically, there is no governance in the country. The next thing would be to plant some other fellow and say that now this is our successor. The price issue needs to be taken up seriously and if this government is not exposed, the life will become very miserable. It comes from Indira Gandhi who would say, Vo kahate hain Indira hatao, mein kahati huin, gharibi hatao, faisla apaka. She knew that there was no damn way of doing away with poverty from India, it was going to take some generations. But people took it, voted her and gave her power. Today, we have to fight back and it should start from June 25.

You along with Shri Subramaniam Swamy and other leaders were pushing the false affidavit case against Smt. Sonia Gandhi. Is it still on?

I cannot tell you whether it is still on. I remember what Swamy said to me that they have not finally been disposed off. But it is again a one-person effort. There are a lot of people in the country, some of whom have used their position to see that this case does not come up. And when the case came up, they did not get the right lawyers. When they get the right lawyers, they persuade them not to stand up. This is how the whole game is going on. We have become some kind of a banana republic, which will make the life miserable.

Today a large part of our resources are going to national security, internal security and fighting the proxy war of a sort that still continues. We need to see that the peace process is not derailed by the wrong actions of the present establishment.

There is a general belief that the NDA let off Dr Manmohan Singh’s government very easily, in spite of its various anti-people actions and failures on the economic front?

Yes, it is true. But ultimately it is the people who have to be mobilised. What I see that there is something that makes people feel that when nothing good can happen, why I should get into the fight. There is some kind of frustration. There was a time when even on hike of an aana in bus fare, the people would not allow buses to run. Railways increasing the price of tickets, it should be stopped. Prices of daily needs are going up, there should be satyagraha. But today what one finds is a certain sense of frustration. We have to mobilise people for any kind of major action. The major action has to be a genuine people’s movement, whether it is the working class, farmers, contract labour, shopkeepers, or people who work in various areas of our economic development. We need to get all these people together. I believe it is possible, provided there is a leadership that really says that enough is enough. We have had one year of total nonsense, in fact one year of total breach of promise. We should use every means at our disposal to mobilise people. That can bring about a total turn around.

As a former Defence Minister, how do you react to Dr Manmohan Singh’s statement that Siachin can be made a ‘mountain of peace’ by withdrawing Indian troops, for which over 700 soldiers sacrificed their lives?

I am also surprised at this statement. I can’t imagine how he came to this kind of conclusion, as Siachin is very critical for our security in that area. If he has come to any kind of understanding with Pakistan and China, I don’t not know where it will land us, not to the peak of peace. It may land us to a level where it will be difficult for us to recover. We should not take everything so casually. I am both surprised and upset.

Then, why are the opposition parties silent on this issue?

What has happened is that various parties in our country have been in government and once a party gets into power, most of the people think that they are going to be there till doomsday. And therefore, they never take an opposition position again. This kind of mindset has developed in our country. I have seen this from the time when we first succeeded in forming a non-Congress government. Those who were members of that government subsequently were not prepared to sit in the Opposition. They thought that having been a minister it was beyond their dignity to be in the Opposition. Not everyone, of course. That mindset still continues.

I have just been informed that Shri Sudarshanji’s statement was not just a one-line or a one-sentence statement. But he had made a very long statement in which he had shown Indira Gandhi in her true colours, not just one colour, but in genuine colours. It appears that the media thought that it would create one more dispute between parties or people. This is something that the media should not have done.

Does it mean that political interest is above national interest?

Patriotism has been at a discount in our country at every level. Let us face it. The Marxists laugh at it when we talk about patriotism. Most of them don’t know what patriotism is all about. They don’t know what is one’s love for the country. Everything that is great about India, they cannot care about it. That is the problem.

Smt. Sonia Gandhi’s recent visit to Russia was a serious matter the way in which she discussed policy issues and made the Foreign Minister accompany her, though she holds no official position. Do you think that the Opposition has failed in highlighting the impropriety in a sufficient manner?

I think there has been criticism of it. The Opposition has not completely overlooked it. As far as the NDA is concerned, it has taken exception to it and very strong statement has gone out. It is something again that should shame the Congress party as it continues with this duality of governance and leadership. The Foreign Minister who had accompanied her should also have thought about it. That it did not strike to him shows the kind of governance we are having today. It is destroying our democratic polity.

Why are you not confronting more forcefully?

Obviously, there has to be a triggering point. Now whether that time has come which will trigger a situation is yet to be seen. In my view, it has come and we need to become immediately active at the national level, not in our respective villages or towns. Everyone has to be mobilised with a certain determination that we have to do away with this mess that the Congress party has created.

Given the kind of intolerance and witch hunt the UPA government has unleashed, do you see another threat from the Gandhi family?

This family is worth nothing. Why should we talk about this family? It is the Congress Party. It is the one that has created this situation. If the party would have functioned, if it had the patriotic fervour, it would not have allowed this kind of situation to arise at all. If tomorrow the party wants to flaunt someone on your head, it will do it. If you then ask why this is happening, it is happening because the Congress Pparty is doing it. Therefore, this government has to go.

What is the NDA’s approach to the ongoing Indo-Pak peace efforts?

It is an effort that was started by the government headed by Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee. It had a good take-off and went on very smoothly. Whether it is lack of understanding, what exactly had been initiated by Atalji, the successor government has started mucking up some of these things. The way they acted about the Hurriyat visit to Pakistan, the way they are talking about Siachin glacier and the way they are discussing all these issues, indicate that they do not know which way to take the peace process. It is another reason this government should go.

“Sonia as an unconstitutional power centre will destroy democracy.”

Do you think that our position on Kashmir has weakened?

I don’t think that our position has weakened as such. Over a period of time the NDA government brought everything under control. I believe if this government had not committed too many mistakes, this process would have been taken to its logical end. It is very important because our country needs the resources to rise. Today a large part of our resources are going to national security, internal security and fighting against the proxy war of a sort that still continues. We need to see that the peace process is not derailed by the wrong actions of the present establishment.

Shri Sudarshanji’s remarks about Smt. Indira Gandhi were wrongly quoted by the media. Now when it is clear that he did not praise her as the media reported, would you like to comment on it?

I have just been informed that Shri Sudarshanji’s statement was not just a one-line or a one-sentence statement. But he had made a very long statement in which he had shown Indira Gandhi in her true colours, not just one colour, but in genuine colours. It appears that the media thought that it would create one more dispute between parties or people. This is something that the media should not have done. If I make a statement, the entire statement should be published. If you pick up a part of it and publish it out of context, it is wrong. The media should stop creating such misunderstanding. This is no way of being the fourth estate.

Aryans: A people or an obsession?

The Aryan problem is a modern European creation that has no relevance to ancient India. The invasion is the tail wagging the Aryan dog, writes N.S. Rajaram

Who were the Aryans?

No single aspect of ancient Indian history and historiography has so dominated discourse as the so-called ‘Aryan problem’. There is the Aryan invasion (or migration), which is supposed to have brought in the Vedic civilisation and the ‘Aryan’ language (Sanskrit), the Aryan race and even an Aryan nation thousands of years later, of all places, in Germany! Even archaeology has not escaped the Aryan assault with scholars claiming that the Harappan civilisation was non-Aryan, destroyed by the invading Aryans, who, of all things, are supposed to have introduced the horse into India. Never mind the fact that horse fossils in India are over a million years old, but what is the reality?

In the whole of the Rigveda, consisting of ten books with more than 1,000 hymns, the word Arya appears fewer than 40 times. It may occur as many times in a single page of a modern European work, like for example, in Hitler’s Mein Kampf. As a result, any modern book or even a discussion on the “Aryan problem” is likely to be a commentary on the voluminous 19th and 20th century European literature on the Aryans having little or no relevance to ancient India. This is simply a matter of the sources: not only the Rigveda, but also the whole body of ancient literature that followed it have precious little to say about Aryans and Aryanism. It was simply an honorific, which the ancient Sanskrit lexicon Amarakosha identifies as one of the synonyms for honorable or decent conduct. There is no reference to any “Aryan” type.

A remarkable aspect of this vast “Aryanology” is that after two hundred years and at least as many books on the subject, scholars are still not clear about the Aryan identity. At first they were supposed to be a race distinguished by some physical traits, but ancient texts know nothing of it. Scientists too have no use for the “Aryan race.” As far back as 1939, Julian Huxley, one of the great biologists of the 20th century, dismissed it as part of “political and propagandist” literature. Recently, there have been attempts to revive racial arguments in the name of genome research, but eminent geneticists like L. Cavalli-Sforza and Stephen Oppenheimer have rejected it. The M17 genetic marker, which is supposed to distinguish the “Caucasian” type (politically correct for Aryan), occurs with the highest frequency and diversity in India, showing that among its carriers, the Indian population is the oldest.

This article is based on the latest findings in history and natural history. It is part of a pathbreaking effort to place ancient history on a scientific foundation. (Source: Out of Eden by Stephen Oppenheimer (2003), Wiedenfield and Nicholson: London.)

Natural history of modern humans

There have been some strange claims in the name of genome research, going so far as to claim that they support the Aryan invasion. But here is what world leading geneticists like L. Cavalli-Sforza and S. Oppenheimer have to say: Our ancestors used to live in Africa 150,000 years ago. A small group of homo sapiens left Africa some 80,000 years ago and settled along the South Asian coast from where they spread out to colonise different parts of the world. All non-Africans in the world today are descendants of a small group of South Asians living south of a line from Yemen to the Himalayas, especially along the Indian coast. This ‘founder group,’ from which all non-Africans are descended, barely survived the fallout from a volcanic eruption in Sumatra known as the ‘Toba Explosion’ 74,000 years ago.

This is roughly the story of our past growing out of more than fifty years of intensive mapping of human genes and climate changes by different scientists. By relating these movements to ecological upheavals, what we obtain is the genetic history of modern humans correlated with the natural history of our planet. Climate changes have been the drivers of both evolution and migration, and hence the growth and decline of civilisations.

Equally interesting is the message of the M17 genetic marker, which some have sought to identify with the ‘Aryan’ gene. It appears in India, Iran, Eurasia and Europe, but exhibits the greatest frequency and diversity in India showing that among its carriers, the Indian population is the oldest. This means that proponents of the Aryan invasion (or migration) have got both the origin and the direction of movement wrong. (See migration map. Source: Out of Eden by Stephen Oppenheimer.)

It is important to interpret this properly. It does not mean that there were no non-African humans before the Toba Explosion, but only that no descendants of those earlier populations have survived outside Africa. A group out of Africa 120,000 years ago made its way to Egypt but disappeared 90,000 years ago without a genetic trace. All Europeans living today are descended from South Asians, possibly as recently as 40,000 years ago. South Asia, India in particular, was the jumping off point for the colonisation East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and ultimately the Americas.

This raises some questions for theories about Indian history and anthropology created during the colonial era. Leaving aside pseudo-scientific theories about race and language, which have been discredited by science but continue in various guises in some academic circles, it shows that both the so-called adivasis (tribals or aborginals) and the caste Hindus share a common African origin. The same is true of Dravidians and Dalits.

A remarkable aspect of this vast “Aryanology” is that after two hundred years and at least as many books on the subject, scholars are still not clear about the Aryan identity. At first they were supposed to be a race distinguished by some physical traits, but ancient texts know nothing of it. Scientists too have no use for the “Aryan race.”

Tail wagging the dog

It is a similar situation with the Aryans as a linguistic group, which is what some scholars, sensitive to the disrepute that race theories have fallen into are proposing. But the vast body of Indian literature on linguistics, the richest in the world going back at least to Yaska and Panini, knows nothing of any Aryan language. The German-born Friedrich Max Müller made his celebrated switch from Aryan race to Aryan language only to save his career in England following German unification, when the British began to see Germany as a major threat. The “Aryan nation” was the battle cry of German nationalists. It was German nationalists, not ancient Indians who were obsessed with their Aryan ancestry.

All this means that the “Aryan problem” is a non-problem- little more than an aberration of historiography. It has been kept alive by a school of historians with careers and reputations at stake. According to its advocates, the Vedic language and literature are of non-Indian origin. In the words of Romila Thapar, a prominent advocate of the non-indigenous origin theory: “The evidence for the importation of the earliest form of the language [Vedic] can hardly be denied.” (Foreword to Aryans and British India by Thomas Trautmann (1997), Vistaar Publications: New Delhi, page xiv.)

In other words, Aryans are needed because without them there can be no Aryan invasion (or migration). The invasion is the tail that wags the Aryan dog.

In the face of this overwhelming evidence, it is best ignore labels and stereotypes like ‘Aryan’ and ‘Dravidian’ and look simply at the record of the people who lived in India and created her unique civilisations. This is the spirit in which my colleagues and I study history- as a combination of natural history and the human record.

Fight de-Indianisation of education

ABVP NEC meet at Bareilly

The National Executive Council (NEC) of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which met in Bareilly recently, has called upon the people of the country, particularly the students and the youth, to stay alert for a united fight against the attempts by the UPA government to de-Indianise, communalise and commercialise education in the country. Members of the ABVP NEC participated in the meeting from all parts of the country.

The NEC also demanded an immediate promulgation of a Central ordinance to help the poor and meritorious students, who seek to acquire professional education. The HRD Minister, Arjun Singh at the State Education Ministers’ conference on January 10 this year had promised to bring in a Central legislation on professional education. But even after six months of the announcement, neither has the Bill been introduced nor has the issue been taken seriously. The ABVP plans to gherao Shri Arjun Singh over this issue.

The NEC termed the UPA government’s decision to provide 50 per cent reservation to Muslim candidates in Aligarh Muslim University “as a clear case of shameful minority appeasement”. “There is a long list of such acts of minority appeasement by the UPA government and various Congress governments in the states. It is a known fact that the Union Government has already appointed a Commission for Minority Education with the powers to recognise minority educational institutions,” the resolution said.

In another resolution, the ABVP said that bringing education under the purview of GATS would remove government control over education and increase the role of foreign institutions in determining the direction of education. It would also seriously hurt the objectives and efforts at Indianisation of education. “ABVP has never opposed internationalisation of education. But it has been our culture for ages that education is the road to development, which can never be put under a restricted paradigm,” the NEC declared. The ABVP plans to release a black paper on the issue in the month of July. On the national scenario, the ABVP warned against the undemocratic attempts in Goa and Jharkhand to insult the decision of the voters. The Parishad also expressed concern over the growing threat to national security.

The ABVP has decided to celebrate the centenary of ‘Banga-bhanga’ movement. The NEC also demanded that all the state governments should begin the day’s proceedings in state assemblies and other constitutional organisations with complete recitation of Vande Mataram as it happens in Parliament. The NEC called upon the youth of the country to launch a Vande Mataram campaign all over the country and to take a resolve for Akhand and prosperous Bharat.

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Secularism: A fraud on the Hindus

By M.S.N. Menon

HINDU India was tolerant to every faith. Buddhist India was not different. Is this the tradition of the Semitic faiths? No. Hindu India kept politics and religion separate. Was this the tradition of the Semitic faiths? No.

It was the tradition of rajadharma (Politics) to protect all people irrespective of their faiths. And be impartial in whatever the ruler did. Thus, Ashoka, the great Buddhist emperor, gave protection to all his subjects: to the Brahmanas, Sramanas and even the atheists. It was this impartiality which gave the Indian state its moral competence. It was from this that its authority flowed. Are these the traditions of the Semitic faiths? No. Then what is it that Hinduism has in common with Semitic faiths? Very little.

In Rock Edict XII, Ashoka says (2300 years ago): “A person should not make an exhibition of reverence of his own sect (religious group) and condemn another without good reason.” On the contrary, he says, “the other sect should be shown reverence. By so doing, a person exalts his own sect and does service to another's sect. By doing otherwise, he does harm to both.” This policy came to be known as sarva dharma samabhava (Equal respect to all religions). Does the Pope of Rome look upon other religions with ‘equal respect’? Do the American Methodists respect Hinduism? Does Islam respect other religions? The answer is: No, No, No!

Then why was this doctrine of samabhava imposed on the Hindus, when they needed no Nehru to tell them of their ancient tradition? India will remain secular, not because of Nehru, but because freedom is at the bottom to tell them of their ancient traditio to tell them to tell them of their ancient tradition? India will remain secular, not bec to tell them of their ancient tradition? India will remain secular, not because of Nehru, but because freedom is at the bottom to tell them of their ancient tradition? India wil to tell them of their ancient tradition? India will remain secular, not beca to tell them of their to tell them of their ancient tradition? India will remain secular, not because of Nehru, but because fr the Wahhabis, major Sunni sects, consider the samabhava of Hindus and European secularism as the worst evils.

Both Christianity and Islam are proselytising religions. To denounce Hinduism is a daily routine with their missionaries. That is the traditional way to win converts. The Christians say that Hinduism represents ‘demonic forces’, while Muslims say it (Hinduism) is a ‘false religion’.

So, was it not a deliberate fraud on the part of Nehru to impose this doctrine of ‘equal respect for all religions’ on the Hindus alone? Didn't he know that Christianity and Islam, both foreign religions, are committed to convert India. Even a man of ordinary intelligence (and he certainly was not so ‘ordinary’) would have called for a ban on conversion to make his doctrine of samabhava meaningful. But he did nothing. He was as cussed to the Hindus as he was when he passed the Hindu Code Bill.

When the American colonies founded the United States, they declared themselves in favour of secularism. So, when the Mormons (an obscurantist Christian sect) insisted on retaining their Personal Laws including polygamy (as the Indian Muslims have been insisting on) they were told that admission to the Union would depend on their giving up their Personal Laws.

Was Nehru aware of this episode? Did he have the courage to follow the American example? Perhaps he was more comfortable with the adulation of the Muslims.

So, the appeasement went on. The Congress party continued to make concessions to the minorities for their votes. Nehru had little to say against minority fundamentalism, but much against Hindu fundamentalism. This suited the Muslims. But this does not suit the Hindus. They want this pseudo-secularism of Nehru to be scrapped.

The case against religion is that it is divisive. But by introducing the Parliamentary system, with unchecked growth of political parties, the Congress brought in the worst divisive form of government that one could think of. Race, religion, ethnicity, caste, language, region-all these became fault lines in the divisive process. The Indian polity is already highly fragmented. The damage has been done. Thanks to the Congress Party.

But what is one to make of Nehru, the ‘visionary’, the ‘builder of modern India’ when he went for the ‘first-past-the-post’ system of elections? Was this not done in the full knowledge of its consequences? Of course it was, but it helped the Congress to stay in power.

Secularism was, therefore, designed to hold the Hindus in duress. In the event, it kept the fault lines open. To close these fault lines, the Indian people must go back to nationalism. One simple way is to insist that the winner in an election must secure 51 per cent of the votes cast.

In a country of India's diversity, further fragmentation poses great danger. The time is, therefore, ripe for the reverse process. Only nationalism, modified to suit our times, can unite our people. Only nationalism can close the fault lines.


How Hindus Look At History

Publication: Vigil
June 25, 2005

Advani’s startling pronouncements in Pakistan about Jinnah, about December 6 and about Pakistan being a reality of history and RSS chief KS Sudarshan’s opinion about Indira Gandhi have created a furore in political circles. Attempts have been made to explain away these statements – by the save-Advani cabal on behalf of Advani and by the RSS spokesperson on behalf of the RSS. While the first is a comical exercise in futility, the second raises the all-important question about how Hindu nationalists should view history in retrospect.

Hindu nationalism implies both the territory of the nation and 85% of its Hindu population. Hindu nationalism will therefore battle for and protect the territory of the nation, and will battle for establishing those structures and institutions which will make for a Hindu nation. Hindu nationalists will interpret history and judge persons who created this history only from the point of view of Hindu interests. Therefore whether Gandhi or Jinnah, Indira Gandhi or Advani, politics, economics, history or social science, religious leaders or scholars, politicians or academics, Hindu nationalists will henceforth look at events and history only on the basis of whether these have served the Hindu nation or caused it great harm. Hindu nationalists should henceforth reject the politically correct uni-dimensional narration of ‘secularist’ history.

By that yardstick alone, unless Hindus are ready to forget the bloody history of Muslim conquest of their nation, unless Hindus are ready to forget the bloody history of partition, Advani and the save-Advani cabal will never sell us the fiction of a repentant Jinnah who desired to create a Pakistan which would be secular in its polity and generous towards its minorities. Similarly Advani cannot blithely declare that dividing the Hindu nation to create a Muslim state is a reality of history and that December 6 was the saddest day in his life; not unless Advani like those of the Abrahamic faith thinks time and history are linear and therefore what has been done can never be undone. Hindus do not subscribe to the linear approach to history or life.

But perhaps Advani and Jaswant Singh and the unholy cabal around Advani which quoted HV Seshadri’s book to legitimize Advani’s callous opinions will better understand Hindu outrage if I were to draw a parallel with Jewish history. I wonder if the mastermind within the cabal who crafted the save-Advani campaign pictured this grotesque scenario – that a high Israeli Jewish politician would travel to Germany and there proclaim that perhaps, just perhaps Hitler wasn’t such a bad guy after all. He did what he did maybe because he had an alcoholic father and a lousy childhood and Jews should now stop nurturing this persecution complex and accept the holocaust and their genocide as a reality of history. He would then return to Israel and there defend his radically new opinion of Hitler by telling his people that in 1952 when he was 18 years old a Rabbi recommended to him a biography of Hitler which attested to his traumatic childhood that caused his warped mind.

If this scenario is grotesque I wonder how Advani’s pronouncements about the Babri Masjid, partition and the creation of Pakistan are not equally grotesque to those who are defending him including the Pejawara Swami Vishwesha Teertha of Udipi; the same Swamiji who did not take a stand when Benny Hinn staged the obscene Christian evangelical burlesque in Bangalore or when Pujya Kanchi Acharya was arrested. Full marks to the Advani cabal for creating a rift between the VHP and this important Sanyasi and for getting this Swamiji from a distinguished and hoary traditional matha to defend, of all things, a politician who had betrayed the Hindu cause.

Hindu nationalists are beginning to take a good hard look at the tenet of ‘ahimsa’ and Gandhiji’s use of this tenet in fighting the war against the colonialists. Can this powerful, mind-boggling tenet be applicable in our dealings with the adharmic and the aasuric and does Hindu ithihaasa support Gandhiji’s understanding and use of the concept? Therefore if Gandhiji’s ahimsa can come under the scanner of Hindu nationalism, then the merits or demerits of Advani and his cabal and Shri Sudarshan’s remark that Indira Gandhi was a leader with ‘courage and firm determination’ too must be consistent with Hindu nationalist parameters of judging our history and the creators of history.

George Fernandes was hopping mad at Shri Sudarshan’s praise for Indira Gandhi and the RSS spokesperson promptly denied that the RSS chief had praised Indira Gandhi and offered a weak explanation which didn’t convince Hindu nationalists. The BJP wiffled and waffled and typical of its intellectual pusillanimity, it didn’t have the courage to refute Sudarshan and didn’t have the courage to praise Indira Gandhi. It simply went ahead and performed the ritual annual shrardha for civil liberties. Hindu nationalists reject this uni-dimensional assessment of Indira Gandhi and the uncritical eulogy of Jayaprakash Narayan. There is more to Indira Gandhi than the Emergency. While Hindu nationalists will rejoice in her determination to go ahead and break Pakistan, we will also take a hard and critical look at her decision to permit Tamil Nadu to offer funds and training to the LTTE during the MGR regime for short-sighted regional political benefits. Similarly Hindu nationalists will also question her wisdom in encouraging Bhindaranwale for the very same short-sighted regional political benefits both of which decisions had catastrophic consequences for the nation and for her family.

Likewise Hindu nationalists bemoan her folly in readily squandering away all the gains made in the war to liberate Bangladesh when she signed the Shimla Agreement with Bhutto. She not only gave away all the territory won by the blood of our soldiers in that war, she also failed to re-take all of the territory forcibly occupied by Pakistan in J&K since 1947. And then she went ahead and made the biggest mistake of her life with regard to Pakistan when she made Pakistan a legitimate party to the J&K ‘dispute-that-never-was’ by making the resolution of the ‘dispute’ a bilateral affair between the two countries.

Therefore while the RSS must now publicly insist that history will be judged by the parameters of Hindu interests and critique Indira Gandhi for those decisions that harmed Hindu interests, it must not be apologetic about any praise for her decision to break Pakistan. And that is why Advani’s remarks in Pakistan are unforgivable and even obscene. If the offence is so big that we consider it obscene then the defense mounted to whitewash it is a bigger obscenity. There can be no redeeming context, explanation or perception of history which can sweep the bloody partition of our nation from people’s memory. And partition was just one event in the bloody history of Muslim conquest and occupation of the Hindu nation.

Hindu nationalists will judge Jayalalithaa, Ram Vilas Paswan, Sonia Gandhi and Lalu Yadav only by the criterion of Hindu sensibilities, Hindu dignity and Hindu interests. There can be no other yardstick for Hindus. Hindu interest alone is national interest. I am ready to listen to any argument which wants to prove me wrong.

A must read for Indian secularists

By M.V. Kamath

Hinduism and the Clash of Civilisations by David Frawley, Voice of India, 247 pp, Rs 180.00

Dr David Frawley is one of the few Westerners recognised in India as a Vedacharya, or teacher of the ancient Vedic wisdom. Though he is a resident of Sante Fe, New Mexico, in the United States where he heads the American Institute of Vedic Studies, his travels have frequently brought him to India. A scholar in the great tradition of Max Mueller, he is one step ahead of most Western scholars of India’s ancient heritage and an eloquent protagonist of Hinduism in its purest form. He has written extensively and this work is a continuation of his earlier works, such as Awaken Bharata: A Call for India’s Rebirth. No respecter of the corruption of Hindu social customs, nor an apologist for what is obviously wrong with them, he has a more futuristic vision and his writings have a constructive as well as critical side.

This book is divided into three sections. The first surveys the challenges that India and Hinduism face today. The second examines the clash between Western intellectual culture and the intellectual and spiritual culture of India and the third suggests principles and main lines for the development of a new Vedic school of thought. Frawley’s argument is that Hinduism is the most enduring religion and culture in the world and has endured against great odds because of its ability to adapt to time-changes and to reinvent itself in a dynamic way in successive eras. He attributes this to the fact that the Hindu tradition is not based upon any specific saviour or prophet or historical personality; but that it recognises many sages and seers, known and unknown, both inside its tradition and outside of it.

No respecter of the corruption of Hindu social customs, nor an apologist for what is obviously wrong with them, he has a more futuristic vision and his writings have a constructive as well as critical side.

He notices that less than two hundred years ago, Hinduism seemed to be on the verge of complete collapse, having remained under siege by colonial and missionary forces. If it withstood the siege and has now become more active than ever before, his reasoning is that within its broad embrace are to be found monotheism, polytheism, dualism, monism, pantheism and even atheism. As Frawley sees it, the unique feature of Indian or Bharatiya culture is unity in multiplicity or what he is pleased to describe as ‘Vedic pluralism’, or a recognition of a unity that transcends name and form.

What saddens the author, however, is the fact that over the last fifty years, ever since Independence, India has not discovered its real roots or reclaimed its true soul as a civilisation. According to him, “a new vitality and creativity is necessary for India that honours the spirit of the country’s venerable traditions but does not restrict itself to previous outdated forms.” Such a new India, he says, would combine science and spirituality in a global perspective, combining the wisdom of ancient rishis with that of modern creative thinkers. Frawley does not hedge. He writes: “We cannot look to politics to change the world, but to spirituality to change politics. Hindus should not try to remake Hinduism according to current images of political correctness, but should connect the world to a greater idea of humanity than political concerns.” That might be taken as a directive to Hindutvavadis.

At the same time Frawley comes down heavily on “the elite of India”, which he avers, suffers from “a fundamental alienation from the traditions and culture of the land” and how right he is! Says Frawley: “There is probably no other country in the world where it has become a national pastime among its educated class to denigrate its own culture and history.”

“When great archaeological discoveries of India’s past are found”, the author notes, “they are not a subject for national pride but are ridiculed as an exaggeration, if not an invention, as if they represent only the imagination of backward chauvinistic elements within the culture.” And for good measure he adds: “Outside people need not pull Indians down. Indians are already quite busy keeping any of their people and the country as a whole from rising up.” No truer words have ever been said. Don’t we all know how petty conflicts in India are blown out of proportion in the foreign media, not by foreign journalists but by our own people, fellow-Indians, out to use the media to score points against their own opponents in the country!

Frawley wonders whether, given such a twisted and self-negative national psyche, there can be any hope for India, which he describes as “a nation without nationalism or at least without any national pride” or with “any real connection to its own history”. Watching the Indian scene, all that the author sees is the negative side of globalisation and the continued projection of Western and European civilisation and its values, just as in the colonial era. The problem, he says, is that academic institutions have been created in India based on Western models and so he asks: “How is it possible to transform Western institutions into appropriate forums for the new Indology?” How, indeed. But let anyone try and he will be damned by our intellectuals and so-called elite as Hindu fundamentalists, if not fascists. But Frawley, the outsider, is not afraid to air his views freely.

Indian intellectuals, he says, should embark on a new seeking of indigenous solutions to modern problems in the country, calling upon the national genius and native shakti of the region, insisting that “India need not look to the West for the keys to revive its civilisation, though Western ideas can be helpful, particularly in the context of an Indian vision”. As he puts it: “Only by reclaiming its own cultural mentality and spirituality can the country really go forward. True scholars of the Indic tradition need not go to Harvard, Oxford or Heidelberg to gain credibility or expertise in their own traditions.” How sad that we need a foreigner to say that!

Many of the author’s utterances will be attributed to his being brainwashed by, who knows, the RSS, perhaps! Frawley points out that India has not faced its past in order not to offend certain minorities in the country but actually the distortion of history has been done intentionally by many modern Indian historians, particularly covering the historical wrongs against Hindus. Hitting out strongly against such historians, the author says: “If a nation does not face its true history, it has no future and its present remains confused.” So well said.

Condemning constant references in the English media to the ‘Hindu right’, the author avers that the whole idea “is a ploy to discredit the Hindu movement as backward and prevent people from really examining it.”

This is a book for our ‘secularists’ to read. It may help them understand their own country and its values better. Indeed, it may help them do some honest introspection and self-examination which they need so badly to do. Frawley is provocative and rightly so. He has said things that few have dared, in the past, to say and it is precisely for that reason that he needs to be read-NOW!

Massive demonstration by saints in Jammu

By Khajuria S. Kant in Jammu

Coming down heavily on Jammu & Kashmir government for its indifferent attitude and double standards on Amarnath pilgrimage, a large number of saints and VHP workers staged a demonstration in Jammu on June 21, the first day of the yatra. The protest was staged under the banner of Baba Amarnath Yatra Nyas (BAYN) and was led by state VHP president, Dr Rama Kant Dubey. Raising slogans against the government, the protestors marched on the city roads. They rapped on the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s knuckle for not taking the historic Amarnath yatra seriously. They demanded that Jammu be made a permanent base camp for the pilgrims and not Baltal. They also demanded that pilgrims be allowed to leave for darshan of the holy cave without registration beyond July 6 also.

Addressing the protesters, Dr Dubey said that the government would not be allowed to deface the original framwork of the yatra by imposing unnecessary restrictions. He questioned the government’s indifferent attitude to the pilgrims. “The pilgrims going prior to July 6 will move without registration while those who follow later will have to get themselves registered,” he said, asking when no restrictions were imposed during the Haj and Ajmer Sharief pilgrimages why the restrictions on Amarnath pilgrimage? Lashing out at the state government, Shri Khem Chand Sharma, north zone organising secretary of VHP, said that no information centre had been set up for the pilgrims by the government, even though hundreds of pilgrims had started reaching Jammu from different parts of the country.

The Hindu land is a wounded civilisation

Vivek Gumaste
Thursday, June 30, 2005 at 1642 hours IST

NAIPAUL’S INDIA: "That was a time when there was no intellectual life in India..."

In reacting to his Nobel Prize laudation, Naipaul averred: “I am utterly delighted, this is an unexpected accolade. It is a great tribute to both England, my home, and to India, home of my ancestors.” While England provided him with a place and a language to express his thoughts, the ethos of his writings is clearly his Indian ancestry. Never before has a writers work been so consumed by the complexities of his origin, compounded by the geographical displacement of his forefathers.

His writings about India, scathingly depreciating at times, have never gone down well with the Indian intelligentsia. His post Nobel Prize remark that he had contributed to India's intellectual development was greeted with profound scepticism and deep antipathy in India. However, a close reading of his works reveals that his three books about India (An Area of Darkness, A Wounded Civilisation and India-A Million Mutinies Now) are in essence, an accurate, objective picture of the changing scenario in post-independent India.

Naipaul, the son of Indian immigrants to Trinidad, first visited India in the 1960's. He carries in his mind a carefully cultivated image of India-the land of Nehru and Gandhi, the land of a great civilisation. His shock and disappointment at the land of his ancestors finds vent in a harsh and stinging tirade in An Area of Darkness, ostensibly to mask the deep hurt that he himself experiences. Jeffery Paine author of Father India rightly concludes: "Area is the narrative of a young man not finding the India he expected and not liking the India he finds." India does not live up to his dreams and the young Naipaul lacks the maturity to gauge the strength of an ancient civilisation.

Naipaul's disgust at what he sees is exemplified in sentences like this: "Indians defecate everywhere. They defecate mostly, besides the railway tracks. But they also defecate on the beaches; they defecate on the hills; they defecate on the river banks; they defecate on the streets; they never look for cover."

However his observations are not all gloom and doom. He appreciates the Indian attitude and deep down in his mind exists a glimmer of hope for the country of his forefathers: "Nowhere are people so heightened, rounded, and individualistic; nowhere did they offer themselves so fully and with such assurance. To know Indians was to take delight in people; every encounter was an adventure. I did not want India to sink; the mere thought was painful." (An Area of Darkness)

But does his book depict genuinely the India of the 1960's? The answer is, yes. Naipaul could not have come to India, at a more inappropriate time. It was a country in flux. The initial euphoria of Independence had evaporated, the Chinese war had deflated its confidence and crushed its philosophy of non-violence, the economy was non-existent and at the helm was an aging, crestfallen Prime Minister; certainly not an optimistic picture. So when Naipaul suggests, much to the dislike of some Indians, that there was little intellectual life in India 40 years ago, he is probably right. The guiding principles of India at that time had failed.

Ahimsa (Gandhian principle of non-violence) had fallen flat in the face of Chinese aggression, socialism had failed miserably and the image of India as a beggar with a begging bowl was gaining strength. Resistant and oblivious to the changing world, India’s aging leaders (both political as well as intellectual), proponents of this decaying ideology clung stubbornly to it ruthlessly suppressing any alternative thought process and allowing India to sink deeper and deeper into a quagmire. In the absence of a rejuvenating force, there, indeed existed an intellectual vacuum. Though rather harsh, Naipaul rightly concludes: "India has been a shock for me, because-you know, you think of India as a very old and civilised land. One took this idea of an antique civilisation for granted and thought it contained the seed of growth in this century.... India has nothing to contribute to the world, is contributing nothing."

On a personal note he ends: "It was a journey that ought not to have been made; it had broken my life in two" But return he did. Again and again until he had made peace with the civilisation of his origin.

Ten years later (A Wounded Civilisation, 1976) the shock, disgust and anger persist but in an attempt to assuage his own wounds he conducts a root cause analysis of India's plight. He concludes that the Hindu land is "a wounded civilisation", injured by the British Raj and the preceding Islamic invasion. Again his strong emotional links with India come to the fore: "India is for me a difficult country. It isn't my home and cannot be my home; and yet I cannot reject it or be indifferent to it; I cannot travel only for the sights. I am at once too close and too far."

Towards the end of the first millennium, India had become an inward looking society which arrogantly ignored the outside world and this attitude had brought with it, its inherent weaknesses and prepared the ground for its impending invasions: "No civilisation was so little equipped to cope with the outside world; no country was so easily raided and plundered, and learned so little from its disasters. Five hundred years after the Arab conquest of Sind, Moslem rule was established in Delhi as the rule of the foreigners, people apart; and foreign rule-Moslem for the first five hundred years, British for the last 150-ended in Delhi only in 1947."

The catastrophic effect that these repeated invasions had on the Hindu psyche are well delineated by Naipaul. Commenting on the decline of the Vijayanagar Kingdom, one of the last bastions of Hindu rule during the Islamic invasion, he astutely observes: "I wondered whether intellectually, for a thousand years India hadn't always retreated before its conquerors and whether in its periods of apparent revival, India hadn't only been making itself archaic again, intellectually smaller, always vulnerable."

This idea is repeatedly emphasized in the book:" Hinduism hasn't been good enough for the millions. It has exposed us to a thousand years of defeat and stagnation. Its philosophy of withdrawal has diminished men intellectually and not equipped them to respond to challenge; it has stifled growth. So that again and again in India, history has repeated itself: vulnerability, defeat and withdrawal."

And for a thousand years (1000 AD to 1947) foreign rule suppressed the native intellect and stymied any growth of the native civilisation. Free of the shackles of alien subjugation, one would have expected to see a positive assertion of ones identity in the post 1947 period. Tragically this was not to be. India's intellectual power fell into the hands of a myopic Indian intellectually community (largely comprised of Marxist oriented historians-sophisticated Pol Pots who desired to erase any reference to India's past) who failed to give a sense of direction to free India.

These armchair intellectuals propounded new fangled philosophies that only accelerated its sense of purposelessness. One such concept was secularism. This 'secularism' did not subscribe to the dictionary definition of the word. But took on a totally different meaning in India. It was a corruption. It led to showering on the non-Hindu communities a set of privileges that could not be justified morally, economically or legally. But more important it expected the Hindu to negate his own identity. Any attempt by the Hindu, however innocent, to assert his identity was dubbed as reactionary and divisive. This proved disastrous in terms of India's self- confidence. Naipaul was probably the first person to make this observation and express it in no uncertain terms: "The loss of the past meant the loss of that civilisation, the loss of a fundamental idea of India, and the loss therefore to a nationalist-minded man, of a motive for action. It was a part of the feeling of purposelessness of which many Indians spoke."

Even an attempt to accurately define India's historical past was frowned upon. Over the centuries India had shrunk physically. Its boundaries had receded from mountains of the Hindu Kush in the West to deserts of Rajasthan forsaking in the process even its traditional cradle of civilisation- the Indus Valley. Academics foolishly contended that the very fact that India existed now was enough to infer that the Islamic invasion was not detrimental to India. They went on to add that invasions had enriched India. Even if India had shrunk to a sliver of land near the southern tip of India-these intellectuals would seek satisfaction that India still existed, totally oblivious of its loss and incapable of appreciating the magnitude of damage. India not only suffered an intellectual depletion but also a crass intellectual perversion that failed to identify the true cause of its backwardness and thus hampered progress.

Therefore Naipaul correctly avers: "The crisis of India is not only political or economic. The larger crisis is of a wounded old civilisation that has at last become aware of its inadequacies and is without the intellectual means to move ahead." I am not certain whether India had 'become aware of its inadequacies' but certainly it lacked the intellectual means of progress during that period.

Finally when he returns to India in the 1990's (India-A Million Mutinies Now), Naipaul is more mature and discerning: "What I hadn't understood in 1962, or had taken too much for granted was the extent to which the country had been remade; and even the extent to which India had been restored to itself, after its own equivalent of the dark ages-after the Muslim invasions and the detailed, repeated vandalising of the North, the shifting empires, the wars, the 18th-century anarchy."

Naipaul now sees the benefits of independence, a crucial catalyst for human growth: "the idea of freedom had gone everywhere in India." And he observes Indians discovering their own identity (to some extent fuelled by the growth of the nationalist BJP): "People everywhere have ideas now of who they are and what they owe themselves"

Change is present everywhere, "India was now a country of million mutinies. A million mutinies, supported by twenty kinds of group excess, sectarian excess, religious excess, regional excess: the beginnings of self-awareness, it would seem the beginnings of an intellectual life, already negated by old anarchy and disorder. But there was in India now what didn't exist 200 years before: a central will, a central intellect, a national idea. .... What the mutinies were also helping to define was the strength of the general intellectual life, and the wholeness and humanism of the values to which all Indians now felt that they could appeal. They were a part of the beginning of a new way for many millions, part of India's growth, part of its restoration."

In summary, India had changed. India was now something to be proud of. Naipaul had something to be proud of. He is finally at peace with India, the very essence of his origin and his existence.

After winning the Nobel Prize, Naipaul arrogantly claimed he helped effect this change in India. What he overlooks is the fact that he is merely the chronicler of the change and not its instigator. However, one may also look at this remark from a different perspective. Does it reflect a deep empathy for India? Does he badly want to be a part of its success?

An Estate unto itself

Indian media has taken upon itself the role of saving secularism, which according to them is anti-thesis to Hindutva.

This was evident during the Ram Janma Bhumi movement. The issue was debated right from Parliament to chaupal. Secularism was exposed to the extent it could. The intellectual battle was a draw. Hindutva didn't win or lose, but for the first time, its opponents were defensive. But the demolition of the Babri structure put Hindutva on backfoot. The demolition was explained as a spontaneous reaction to mass anger accumulated over a period of time.

In political parlance, a lot of thinking people agreed that secularism as practiced in India was nothing but the continuation of old Muslim appeasement policy.

During the demolition, around a dozen journalists were manhandled. A journalist who was also a CPM activist told a BJP general secretary that "we will see to it that Hinduvta is vanquished". Journalists from around the country were organised. Some media veterans opposed to Hindutva toured dozens of places and told journalists to fight for secularism and against Hindutva. Court cases were filed and Press council was approached. Demonisation of the RSS movement in dominant media houses scaled newer heights. The Centre was ruthless. Then Prime Minister P V Narshimha Rao hatched a conspiracy to implicate Hindutva icon L K Advani. He clubbed him with some Congressmen to give an impression of being fair. We know what happened after it. The anti-Hindutva media campaign was led by known Leftists, and flanked by opponents of Hindutva.

When the Vajpayee Government came into being, media was baffled, for their continuous demonisation campaign of Sangh could not bear fruit. During the six-year NDA rule, the media worked overtime to deface the BJP-led Government and demonise Sangh Parivar. One can recall the Jhabua nuns rape case. The case was a means to demonise NDA in India and abroad. People from Sangh were painted as brutal rapists. But the truth came out in the form of a court judgement. Media, by and large, ignored the judgement on such a hotly debated issue. The same story was repeated in Dang. Till then, the Sangh, which was earlier painted as anti-Muslim, was now presented as anti-Christian. Ministers of Germany, Canada and US President added fuel to the fire.

After the Graham Stains murder case, the campaign scaled newer heights. Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asked pitifully: Has the NDA Government not done any good work for the media to talk about? That was reflective of the media mood against the NDA Government. Unfortunately, Godhra happened and there was massive reaction to the killings.

Narendra Modi was confronted with a Herculean task of controlling riots within
a week, whereas during the Congress regime of Madhav Singh Solanki, riots had lingered on for six months. But the re-invigorated media pounced on Narendra Modi and painted him as fascist. International campaigns are still continuing. I am recounting these mega-media campaigns to drive home the point that the dominant media is the biggest enemy of the Hindutva Movement. It is the prime target of media's demonizing campaign while its objective is to finish the Hindutva movement.

The media tried to drive a wedge between the alliance partners and BJP. However, its real aim was to divide Atal Behari Vajpayee and L K Advani. Had they not been great statesmen, the media would have succeeded with disastrous consequences. Now after the 2004 elections, their role is to confuse and divide the Sangh so that it may not recover from whatever setbacks it may have suffered after the 2004 elections. A dominant media has taken the position that secularism will not survive unless Hindutva is vanquished. Their efforts to achieve their objective are continuing.

Nobody should underestimate the might of media. Media enjoys destruction and is sadist by instinct. An investigative journalist will feel proud if he has been able to damage the reputation of a VIP. Titles like Tehelka are meant to woo readers. Anyone who has the might of megaphone, whether in print or electronic, suffers from inflated ego. A journalist is feared. People are scared of police and politicians, but even the highest in police and politics are frightened by media. In the age of 24X7 channels, the victim doesn't even get a chance to respond before his reputation gets devastated. The media has a friendly Government at the Centre and it would use all the tricks to damage the Hindutva movement.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

UK Hindus rally against French intolerance

Thousands of Hindus from scores of Hindu organisations joined in the protest against the French manufacturer Minelli to express their solidarity against religious intolerance in France. The rally was organised by the Hindu Human Rights Group outside the French Embassy in London on June 12, 2005. The colourful protest attended by several prominent Hindu leaders featured banners on Lord Rama, slogans against Minelli and the French government, chanting of hymns and devotional songs to the accompaniment of Indian drums and cymbals, speeches by Hindu leaders and signing of petitions amongst other things.

Expressing her gratitude to the thousands of individuals and numerous organisations who participated and supported the peaceful protest permeated by passionate cries of Jai Shri Ram (Victory to Lord Rama), Sheila Maharaja, spokesperson for the Hindu Human Rights Group, said, “Bathed in the afternoon sun, Hindus from all walks of life joined us in a growing Hindu awakening to make it known that we will no longer stand for the defamation of our sacred Lord Rama and the persecution of Hindus anywhere in the world.”

Speaking about Minelli’s apparent offer to withdraw the infamous shoes from sale, she added, “Minelli have yet to respond to our reply, let alone offer a full apology. We will not stop this campaign until they have made it clear that they recognise the offence that they have caused, acknowledge their responsibility in a public apology and outline how they intend to move forward from here. There are also the wider issues surrounding this campaign about the treatment of Hindus in France itself. The French government has yet to respond and clarify how they intend to address this. The protest will continue.”

“We are very grateful to Hindu Human Rights Group for bringing this issue to the attention of Hindus all over the world,” commented Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general, Hindu Forum of Britain. “The rally was a huge success and demonstrated the genuine concern of Hindus in Britain and elsewhere about the misuse and abuse of Hindu icons as well as the growing intolerance in France. This is the main reason the Hindu Forum of Britain has urged all Hindus to boycott French goods and stop flying Air France.”

The Hindu Forum of Britain has urged Hindus all over the world to write to the International Olympic Association to express their disgust and opposition to the short-listing of Paris as a possible venue for the 2012 Olympics. “We are continuing to request outraged Hindus to immediately write to the chairman of the International Olympic Committee, Rogge, and express their opposition to the holding of Olympics 2012 in France. After all, this is the country that gave the world the three words—liberty, equality and fraternity— and yet they do not wish to give liberty to minority faith traditions, do not wish to give us the same treatment given to the Catholic Church in strict violation of all accepted laws of equality, and refuse to extend a hand of friendship and fraternity to us.”

Hindu temples in France are not recognised as “established churches and are therefore not given the same tax rebates that are available to Catholic churches, some Protestant churches and a few synagogues and mosques. “We condone the fact that a religion that pre-dates Christianity by thousands of years has not been recognised as an accepted faith tradition by the French government,” explained Dr Girdhari Bhan, president, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, UK. “It goes against all accepted norms of human rights in the democratic world,” he added.

Organisations that supported the rally included the Hindu Forum of Britain, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, UK, the Hindu Council of Brent, the Hindu Council of Birmingham, the Hindu Council of Harrow, the Hindu Council of the North, Leicester Festival Hindu Council, the Hindu Council, UK, the Shri Kutch Leva Patel Community, UK, the Federation of Brahmin Associations, the Prajapati Association, UK, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the International Swaminarayan Satsang Organisation and scores of others.

Letters of protest to the chairman of International Olympic Committee opposing Paris as the venue for the 2012 Olympics may be emailed to or


Marxists: Victims of the Semitic fallacy

By M.S.N. Menon

RELIGIONS can turn some men into beasts. Marxism is a religion. It has turned many men into beasts—Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, to mention a few.

Karl Marx was a Jew. He was Jewish in his inflexible views, Jewish in his hatred of the bourgeoisie and Jewish in his uncompromising character. In short, he was truly in the Semitic tradition.

Like his rabbi ancestors, says Northcote Parkinson, Marx saw the world as a place of conflict between good and evil, between labour and capital, between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Thus, Marx did it all over again—he divided mankind into two enemy camps, just as Christianity and Islam had done before. Result? The Second World War and the Cold War.

Semitic religions are said to be revealed. By how many gods—one, two or three—we do not know. The holy books speak in contradictory voices. One speaks in favour of non-violence, another in favour of violence. But each is declared to be true and infallible. How? Because, they say, the books were divinely inspired. This is the Semitic fallacy. And Marxism is a victim of this fallacy. It too was claimed to be infallible by its followers.

In contrast, Hinduism is a quest for truth. It has complete freedom of enquiry. Hindus do not believe in the ‘infallibility’ of any doctrine or in the ‘last words’ or in the ‘last prophet’.

If the communist movement failed to attract even ten per cent of the Indian population, one can well understand. The poor refused to put their trust in its promises. What is more, Marxism was a product of European experience. It need not be relevant to us.

Indian could have highlighted the ethical part of Marxism and rejected its violence. But Indian communists were small men—Lilliputs. They could not have asserted their views. They had no idea that Marxism belonged to the Semitic tradition, utterly alien to the Hindu ethos.

The communist movement naturally failed to attract the best men from among the Hindus (not one communist came up to the stature of a Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Gandhi or Nehru). Why? Because Marxism with its emphasis on violence was utterly alien to the Indian ethos. What was more, India had seen the calamitous result of the mindless violence of the Muslims for six long centuries in India. And how could the Hindus have accepted a faith that sought to split their ranks, when they were face to face with a new hostile force—imperialism?

Having rejected the past of India as ‘mumbo-jumbo’, the Indian communists ceased to be Indians. But did they take roots in European civilisation? They did not. They dismissed it as ‘bourgeois filth’. So, the Indian communist was and is a rootless creature, who pretends to be a world citizen.

They admit today that they committed great ‘blunders’. But that is what Christianity too admits—that it had committed many great blunders (only Islam refuses to do so.) So, what happend to the ‘infallibility’ of their doctrines?

The Russian communists had no experience in building a socialist society. But they believed in the infallibility of Marx and Lenin. In fact, they were over-bearing, over-confident and impatient with dissenters. It was all a repetition of early Christianity and Islam. The Russian people paid the highest price in history for these follies. And when Gorbachev launched his glasnost and perestroika, he knew even less how to unscramble the rotten system, not to speak of reconstructing it in freedom. Again, the people paid a high price. In all, they lost a century, and about 50 million people. Was anything in the world worth this price? Even if Russia had taken to the capitalist road, it would have become one of the greatest economic powers in the world. And that without paying any price. But Marxism exacted a heavy price from very many peoples and nations.

Who was at fault? First of all, the Semitic legacy of Europe. The unfailing faith in the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ reminds us of Mohammed’s words: “My community can never err.” That workers could be the larger part of the cause for the debacle of communism everywhere could never enter the head of the communists. It was the same with the pioneers of Christianity and Islam. They could never believe that their faith could pass into the hands of evil men. And when the evil men took them over and started their tyranny, they took the silence of the majority as approval of their tyranny.

Marxists made other mistakes: they believed that men work for the public good. They do not. Men work for their personal advancement. Marxists believe that capitalists are parasites. But it is their sacrifice which helped the early capital formation.

Gandhi never believed in systems. In fact, he was an enemy of systems. Systems create false faith. He put his entire faith in the human potential—in man's ability to transform himself to a higher being.

Yes, we can transform the world. But before that, we must transform men. Only on the foundation of human worth can we build a good society.


Unending tragedy of Kashmiri Hindus

By J.G. Arora

Pakistan is enjoying its victory lap after rendering Kashmir into a Hinduless region.

It is tragic that Kashmir, the land of Maharishi Kashyap, Lalitaditya, Maharani Kota Rani and Kalhan; the cradle of Vedic heritage; and the region which was ruled by Hindus and which defeated Muslim invaders heroically for many centuries, is now witnessing genocide of Hindus with their forced eviction from Kashmir to live like refugees in their own country for the past 15 years.

It is outrageous that lakhs of Kashmiri Hindus, the original inhabitants of Kashmir with a history of thousands of years of art, culture, literature and architecture, and followers of an all-embracing Vedic tradition preaching universal brotherhood and oneness of humanity, have been driven out from their homes.

Genocide and exodus

During the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan-sponsored terrorists killed thousands of Hindus in Kashmir, forcing several lakhs of terrorised Hindus to flee from Kashmir. Driven out from their homes, these displaced Kashmiri Hindus are leading a wretched existence in cramped camps and tattered tents in Jammu, New Delhi and other places. Feelings of deprivation, hurt, humiliation and helplessness constantly plague them. Divested of their roots and rights, they face an unpredictable future.

Successive governments have done nothing to rehabilitate them and to punish their tormentors. The present Congress-led UPA government also is insensitive to their misery, as it has done nothing towards their rehabilitation. Rather, this government has launched terrorist-friendly, passport and visa-free Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service which has opened floodgates to infiltration of more Pakistanis into India to wreak further havoc in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country.

Untold Tragedy

Both the Central and State governments, as also the media and all major political parties are silent over genocide, exodus and the pathetic plight of Kashmiri Hindus, and are responding with deception, negation and inaction over this catastrophe. Deserted and disowned by the nation, Kashmiri Hindus stand all alone.

The international community is unaware of their plight as it recognises refugees only when they flee into another country, and not if they seek shelter within their own country.

It is deplorable that various human rights organisations, which are otherwise very vocal against any real or imaginary infringement of human rights, are silent about genocide and gross violation of human rights of lakhs of Kashmiri Hindus.

While the displaced lot suffers in silence, the media is busy indulging in their anti-Hindu agenda and such trivialities. The sage of the unending tragedy of Kashmiri Hindus remains untold. But as Indian citizens, they have a right to return to their homes in Kashmir which is an integral part of India. It is the bounden duty of Union and state governments to ensure their return and safety in Kashmir.

To demonstrate that Kashmir is an integral part of India, India has to take to task persons responsible for genocide in Kashmir, and rehabilitate Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir at the earliest. But the refugees cannot return to their homes unless the root cause of their ouster is removed.

Reasons for their Pathetic Plight

Terrorists and their guns are the reasons for the ouster of Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir. And the presence of Article 370 in the Constitution of India is the main reason for terrorism in Kashmir.

Article 370 negates the very concept of one unified India.

By conferring a special status on Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, Article 370 has created serious problems. Though Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India, even the President or Prime Minister of India cannot purchase even one square inch of land in the state. Moreover, though any person from Jammu & Kashmir can reside and settle anywhere else in India, no person from the rest of the country can reside and settle in Jammu & Kashmir because of Article 370. Besides, many of the Central laws are not applicable to Jammu & Kashmir. This Article limits the President’s and Parliament’s powers over Jammu & Kashmir.

Article 370 has contributed to the growth of feelings of separatism resulting in ouster of Hindus from Kashmir.

Though Constitution-framers had inserted Article 370 only as a “temporary provision”, it survives even in 2005, nearly 55 years after the Constitution came into effect in 1950.

Way out

In order to save India, we have to save Kashmir. We cannot save either without abrogating Article 370.

Terrorism is inflicting deep financial and security wounds on the Indian State. Abrogation of Article 370 will defeat terrorism and more fully integrate Kashmir with the rest of India.

Abrogation of Article 370 to bring Jammu & Kashmir on par with other states has to be the first step to solve the Kashmir problem. And instead of providing passport and visa-free Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service which has opened the floodgates for more Pakistani infiltrators, all steps to deport existing crores of Pakistani and Bangladeshi infiltrators have to be taken immediately. Besides, as per the ‘doctrine of hot pursuit’ of International Law, terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Bangladesh have to be smashed; and if necessary, an all out war launched against these unreasonable nations.

Retaining of Article 370 defies all logic. According to Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989), American historian and author of The March of Folly, all disasters of history are the result of the government’s folly and perverse persistence in pursuing the policies contrary to national interests. How I wish the Indians would prove Barbara W. Tuchman wrong and immediately abrogate Article 370!

Such a long wait

If Kashmiri Hindus are allowed to perish, Hindus in the rest of the country would also perish in the next few decades and Kashmir is just the beginning of Islamisation of India.

Kashmiri Hindus survive in the fond hope that soon they would be able to return to their home land. Besides, they want to survive their ‘thousands of years’-old customs, traditions and culture. They have a natural longing and every right to return to Kashmir.

Apart from solving the Kashmir problem, abrogation of Article 370 would initiate the process of home-coming of Kashmiri Hindus.

Will someone introduce the Bill (to abrogate Article 370) in the Parliament to bring Jammu & Kashmir at par with other Indian states to enable exiles to return to Kashmir? Will Kashmiri Hindus ever return to their homes in Kashmir for which they have been waiting for so long?


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Tectonic upheavals in BJP

There is an irony in the tectonic upheavals currently besieging the BJP. A party that once rode the crest of a national political quest to give Indic civilisation due honour in the public arena is itself convulsed by a clash of ideologies. An elemental struggle is on between those who wish to return to the pre-NDA commitment to the nation's foundational ethos as bedrock of the polity, and those seeking quick-fix solutions in the defeated dogmas of the Nehruvian era.

Every nation derives its identity from a core culture based upon the traditions of the native majority; all groups position themselves around this core. This does not mean that later entrants or minority groups become second-class citizens; but in a democracy, minorities do not determine national identity and ethos.

The forced Partition of India and Congress' refusal to adhere to the two-nation theory provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate how the inclusive Hindu tradition operated in a modern polity. A Hindu Rashtra, far from being an Islamic-style theocracy imposed by the majority, would have ensured the flowering of the perennial Hindu virtues of affirmation of dharma; respect for religious diversity; and the separate but complementary roles of political and spiritual leaders.

Unfortunately Jawaharlal Nehru stood the civilisational issue on its head. Commiserating with Muslims for becoming a "divided" community, he launched a vigorous policy of minority appeasement to contain the "imagined" Hindu community. A Euro-centric mindset juxtaposed tradition against modernity, debased Hindu civilisation and culture, and proposed a rootless "scientific temper" that was actually a mindless imitation of Joseph Stalin's Soviet New Man.

Nehru's worst sin, to my mind, was not that he imposed a perverted secularism upon India, but that he dishonestly forced Hindus, rather than Muslims, to shoulder and internalise the guilt of Partition. This permitted minorityism to grow at the expense of the Hindu majority, as manifested in the growing Haj subsidy, regressive personal laws, tacit encouragement of illegal immigration by inclusion in the voter's list, tolerance of illegal madarsas, and now, reservations in jobs and educational institution on religious lines (in Andhra Pradesh). And now Andhra Pradesh is set to experiment with political reservations for Muslims in local bodies.

The so-called Nehruvian consensus involved, as a natural corollary, the complete suppression of the culture of the majority community. Sanskrit, engine of the nation's culture, nobility and learning, both sacred and temporal, was the first casualty of this approach. Despite powerful appeals, including endorsement by BR Ambedkar, it was denied the status of national language and relegated to schoolroom learning for a fixed number of years. Although NASA uses Sanskrit to programme supercomputers, the language has failed to get its due in its home country.

Most people fail to realise that modern democracies take the civilisational issue for granted. Indeed, since the mid-twentieth century, no majority in any country has been denied this right, except in India. When we look at the new post Second World War nation-states, we see that Israel made Jewish civilisation and culture the bedrock of its nationhood and Pakistan based its identity upon the Islamic injunction not to live under a non-Islamic polity.

While I have no personal information about Christian East Timor, which was carved out by the West and the United Nations from Muslim Indonesia some years ago, it can hardly have a non-Christian ethos. East Timor is powerful evidence of how the West continues to use religion as an instrument of international diplomacy to subvert other nations and cultures; those of us who claim adherence to Nehruvian-Western standards of secularism in public life would do well to examine this deeper truth before reading false sermons to the Hindu community.

It is hardly surprising that many Hindus have viewed the Congress raj as a continuation of the British Raj, because India is institutionally insensitive to popular sentiments. Some years ago, the Supreme Court looked askance at attempts to update and rewrite history books, though it ultimately approved the revised NCERT curriculum. Around the same time, however, a petitioner who sought that namaz be prohibited in public places (roads, pavements) as it inconvenienced others, did not merely have his petition dismissed, but the apex court actually accused him of causing communal tension and fined him Rs 10,000 which is quite unprecedented.

Nehru's cleverly crafted all-India minority vote-bank, however, served the Congress well and with help from sections of the Hindu community kept it in power for over four decades, despite the party never managing to win a majority of the total vote. The pent-up anger of the Hindu community first showed up in the rout of the Congress in most of northern India in 1967. It is my view that post-1967, all people's movements in India have aimed to undermine and overthrow the Nehruvian order, which has been systematically unsympathetic to their aspirations. That is why anti-Congressism was the hallmark of opposition activity for several decades.

The BJP's failure to respect the mandate given by this sentiment enabled the Congress to make anti-communalism a plank to attract anti-BJP parties to its fold. Yet, I believe that the civilisational issue has not gone away merely because it has been sidetracked once again. The BJP would do well to recognise that it was the Hindu concern with national identity and self-esteem that made the Ram Janmabhoomi movement such a phenomenal success, and the inability of party leaders to cope with the consequences of that triumph in no way invalidates the movement.

Even if one accepts the BJP claim that coalition politics prevented unilateral movement on the Ayodhya temple, it is inexplicable that even after the Archaeological Survey of India, under High Court instructions, excavated the site and found the remains of two tenth and twelfth century Hindu temple complexes below the Babri structure, little was done to facilitate the temple construction. Indeed, the Babri pillars were proved to be affixed to the Hindu temple. This is why even when Mr Advani was forgiven for calling the demolition the saddest day of his life in 1992, his reiteration of this view in Pakistan after Hindu civilisational memory was so explicitly vindicated in stone, propelled him out of the gates of history and into ignominy.

The civilisational issue is crystallising once again, and we will be remiss in our duty if we fail to seize the opportunity providence is offering in terms of a minority-majority synergy. Last time the Hindu community used Rajiv Gandhi's capitulation to ulema on the Shah Bano judgment to open the locks of the Ram Janmabhoomi. Since then, the issue of the common civil code has become far more serious, with obscurantist ulemas making a mockery of the human rights of Muslim women. Some time ago, young Gudiya was forced to return to her first husband although pregnant with the child of her second husband whom she truly loved.

Now, Imrana, raped by her father-in-law, is declared divorced from her husband and told to marry another man if she wishes! Rabid secularists like Shabana Azmi and Teesta Setalvad cannot be expected to speak for her, but Hindu dharma's inclusivist tradition demands that it embrace the beleaguered Muslim woman. A common civil code has never been more imperative; for BJP it may be the route to reinvent itself in national life.

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US Supreme Court rules against Hindu body's plea: Indians Abroad

Indo-Asian News Service
Washington, June 28, 2005

The US Supreme Court has ruled that a 6x3 foot granite monument of the Ten Commandments could remain near a Texas court though a dissenting opinion said it violated the rights of other religions such as Hinduism.

Ruling on two separate cases Monday, one in Kentucky where the court held the Ten Commandments could not be displayed inside the courthouse, the Supreme Court supported a Kentucky court decision that disallowed the display.

But in the Texas case, it upheld the ruling of the Texas Fifth Circuit that the granite monument could be displayed on government property. The monument was placed roughly 40 years ago unlike the Kentucky display, which was apparently just three years old.

"I think that the legal community was probably anticipating or hoping for some kind of standard that could be applied, some type of test, but again the Supreme Court has demonstrated that these types of cases would be looked at on a fact by fact basis," Suhag Shukla, legal counsel for Hindu American Foundation (HAF) that initiated the amicus brief in the Texas case, told IANS.

"But as a member of the Hindu American community, we are very happy to participate in this national dialogue and the HAF brief has been mentioned in the Texas case," she said.

In his dissenting opinion in the five-four decision, Justice Stevens says, "Even if, however, the message of the monument, despite the inscribed text, fairly could be said to represent the belief system of all Judeo Christians, it would still run afoul of the establishment clause by prescribing a compelled code of conduct from one god, namely a Judeo Christian god, that is rejected by prominent (religions).... Hinduism, Buddhism."

Last December HAF spearheaded the filing of an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the US Supreme Court in the Texas case in what became one of the most widely anticipated cases being heard in the Supreme Court this year.

In the brief, HAF and nine other organisations supported the position that the monument violates the separation of church and state guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US constitution.

The case originally brought by Thomas Van Orden against Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, in 2003, asked for the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from Texas State Capitol grounds. The Supreme Court decided to hear the case after the Fifth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the monument could remain in place.

The 34-page brief was signed by HAF, Arsha Vidya Pitham, Arya Samaj of Michigan, Hindu International Council Against Defamation, Hindu University of America, Navya Shastra, Saiva Siddhanta Church, Federation of Jain Associations in North America, Interfaith Freedom Foundation and prominent Buddhist scholar and Director of Tibet House, Professor Robert Thurman.

"The court is not laying out a standard of rule," Shukla emphasised. "One could say they ruled against us, but we were filing as an amicae really to bring the perspective of Hindus, Jains and others," she contended.

"The (other) traditions were recognised and we participated in a civil activity. So on face value, the factual situation surrounding the monument was not in our favour.

However, we as a community have made great strides, evident from the dissenting statement of Justice Stevens which says that - that one cannot overlook the fact that there are many traditions that do not consider the Ten Commandments as the Judeo Christian faith does."

While filing the brief last year, Shukla had pointed to the overtly religious monument being displayed as a "blow to pluralism".


Monday, June 27, 2005

Court: Some Ten Commandments Displays OK

New York Times
Published: June 27, 2005

Filed at 8:26 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that displaying the Ten Commandments on government property is constitutionally permissible in some cases but not in others. A pair of 5-4 decisions left future disputes on the contentious church-state issue to be settled case-by-case.

''The court has found no single mechanical formula that can accurately draw the constitutional line in every case,'' wrote Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

Breyer was the only justice to vote with the majority in both cases: One that struck down Ten Commandments displays inside two Kentucky courthouses and a second that allowed a 6-foot granite monument to remain on the grounds of the Texas Capitol.

The court said the key to whether a display is constitutional hinges on whether there is a religious purpose behind it. But the justices acknowledged that question would often be controversial.

''The divisiveness of religion in current public life is inescapable,'' wrote Justice David H. Souter.

He said it was important to understand the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which requires the government to stay neutral on religious belief. Questions of such belief, he said are ''reserved for the conscience of the individual.''

In both cases, Breyer voted with the majority. In the Kentucky case barring the courthouse displays, that left him with the court's more liberal bloc where he normally votes. In the Texas case, he wound up making a majority with the more conservative justices.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, often a swing vote, joined the liberals in both decisions.

The rulings mean thousands of Ten Commandments displays around the nation will be validated if their primary purpose is to honor the nation's legal, rather than religious, traditions. Location also will be considered, with wide open lots more acceptable than schoolhouses filled with young students.

''It means we'll litigate cases one at a time for decades,'' said Douglas Laycock, a church-state expert at the University of Texas law school, noting the decisions provide little guidance beyond the specific facts of the cases. ''The next case may depend on who the next justice is, unfortunately,'' he said.

In sharply worded opinions, Justice Antonin Scalia said a ''dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority'' was denying the Ten Commandments' religious meaning. Religion is part of America's traditions, from a president's invocation of ''God bless America'' in speeches to the national motto ''In God we trust.''

''Nothing stands behind the court's assertion that governmental affirmation of the society's belief in God is unconstitutional except the court's own say-so,'' Scalia wrote.

The justices voting on the prevailing side in the Kentucky case left themselves legal wiggle room, saying that some displays inside courthouses -- like their own courtroom frieze -- would be permissible if they were portrayed neutrally in order to honor the nation's legal history.

The Supreme Court's frieze depicts Moses as well as 17 other figures including Hammurabi, Confucius, Napoleon and Chief Justice John Marshall. Moses' tablets do not have any writing.

The monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol -- one of 17 historical displays on the 22-acre lot -- was determined to be a legitimate tribute to the nation's legal and religious history.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist argued that the Texas monument with the words 'I AM the LORD thy God''' was a permissible acknowledgment of religion's place in society.

Breyer, who provided the fifth vote in the holding, did not join Rehnquist's opinion. As a result, his separate concurrence, concluding that the Texas display was predominantly nonreligious and thus constitutional because it sat in a vast park, was the controlling viewpoint.

The rulings were the court's first major statement on the Ten Commandments since 1980, when the justices barred display in public schools.

''This is a mixed verdict, but on balance it's a win for separation of religion and government,'' said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. ''The justices wisely refused to jettison long-standing church-state safeguards. We're thankful for that.''

On the other side, Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, said: ''It is very encouraging that the Supreme Court understands the historical and legal significance of displaying the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, the high court's decision in the Kentucky case is likely to create more questions.''

In Kentucky, two counties originally hung the copies of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses. After the ACLU filed suit, the counties modified their displays to add other documents demonstrating ''America's Christian heritage,'' including the national motto of ''In God We Trust'' and a version of the Congressional Record declaring 1983 the ''Year of the Bible.''

When a federal court ruled those displays had the effect of endorsing religion, the counties erected a third Ten Commandments display with surrounding documents such as the Bill of Rights and Star-Spangled Banner to highlight their role in ''our system of law and government.''

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal subsequently struck down the third display as a ''sham'' for the religious intent behind it.

Meanwhile in Texas, the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the exhibit to the state in 1961, and it was installed about 75 feet from the Capitol in Austin. The group gave thousands of similar monuments to American towns during the 1950s and '60s.

Thomas Van Orden, a former lawyer who is now homeless, challenged the display in 2002. He lost twice in the lower courts in holdings the Supreme Court affirmed Monday.

Dissenting in the Texas case, Justice John Paul Stevens argued the display was an improper government endorsement of religion.

''If a state may endorse a particular deity's command to 'have no other gods before me,' it is difficult to conceive of any textual display that would run afoul of the Establishment Clause,'' he said.

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