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.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Bill O'Reilly calls America a ‘Judeo-Christian Country’

By Khalid Hasan
Daily Times, Pakistan

American Muslims have expressed outrage following the assertion by popular right-wing Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that Muslim holidays should not be observed since America is a “Judeo-Christian country”.

On the October 27 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly called the idea of closing public schools for the observance of Muslim holidays ‘absurd’. He made the remark during a discussion with Hillsborough County (Florida) Commissioner Brian Blair, who opposed the Hillsborough County School board’s decision to keep public schools open on Yom Kippur and Good Friday during the 2006-07 school year, a departure from the school district’s earlier practice of closing schools on those days.

In December 2004, Hillsborough County Muslims, with the backing of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), asked the school board to close schools on the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Instead of giving students the day off on Eid-ul-Fitr, the school board voted to keep schools open on Yom Kippur and Good Friday during the 2006-2007 school year, arguing that the school district could close schools on days when a substantial number of students would be absent, but could not close schools specifically for the observance of religious holidays. Students however can take the day off on such occasions.

In his discussion on the question with Blair, Bill O’Reilly said, “So a Muslim wanted a Muslim holiday, which is absurd in a Judeo-Christian country. I mean we can’t be having Hindu and Buddha. I mean, come on. I mean this country is founded on Judeo-Christian traditions.

Those traditions have been in play for more than 200 years. Christmas is a federal holiday. You know, somebody walks in and says, ‘Well, I just moved here and I want, you know, this Shinto shrine.’ And you’re going, ‘Well, look, this is a traditional American situation that we’ve done for hundreds of years.’ But now you knocked it out.”

UPA govt going soft on subversive activities: RSS chief

UPA govt going soft on subversive activities: RSS chief
Monday, 31 October , 2005, 15:52

Kochi: Lashing out at the ongoing Indo-Pak dialogue on the Kashmir issue, RSS Chief K S Sudharshan has criticised the UPA government for going "soft" on subversive activities.

"Our government seems to be soft on subversive activities. Kashmir issue is a telling example. Previously discussions were about Pakistan occupied Kashmir [PoK],” Sudharshan said, addressing a district meeting of sangh workers in Kochi on Sunday night. “But now the point of discussion is Jammu and Kashmir, which is an undisputed part of India."

The demand for greater Nagaland is another sign of such malady in the North East, he said.

Forces within and outside the country are working to "weaken and destabilise" India, he said, calling for caution. Concerted moves were being made even at the International level to debilitate our country, he said.

On the Delhi blasts, he said the country was capable of meeting such challenges. People, instead of fearfully sitting inside their homes, rushed to various spots for conducting relief operations. When there was a terrorist attack in the US, the whole population went numb with fear.

"But in our country, we have dared several terrorist attacks. Our people are going on pilgrimage to Vaishnodevi and Amarnath temples braving attacks," he said.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

New Delhi Explosions Hit Bus, Two Crowded Markets

From Associated Press

NEW DELHI -- It was one of the year's busiest shopping days. People strolled through crowded markets of the Indian capital strung with colored bulbs, buying boxes of the extra-sugary sweets often given as gifts during the Hindu festival of lights.

Then the pleasantly cool this evening exploded in fire and terror.

"There was black smoke everywhere," said shopkeeper Babu Lal Khandelwal. "When the smoke was cleared and I could see, there were people bloody and people lying in the street."

All around him, the Paharganj market was a ruin of mangled shops, twisted metal and body parts after the 5:45 p.m. explosion. Within minutes, another blast ripped through the popular Sarojini Nagar shopping area, followed by a bombing on a bus in the Govindpuri neighborhood. At least 58 people were killed and dozens wounded.

The government blamed terrorists for the near-simultaneous attacks, and police declared a state of emergency and closed all city markets. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged calm while denouncing the apparently coordinated bombings.

"These are dastardly acts of terrorism," Singh said in a brief televised statement. "We shall defeat their nefarious designs and will not allow them to succeed. We are resolute in our commitment to fighting terrorism in all forms."

Asked who was responsible, he would only say "there are several clues." However, the Indian government faces opposition from dozens of militant groups -- particularly Kashmiri separatists, some of whom also oppose the peace process between Pakistan and India that began early last year.

The explosions also came hours after India and Pakistan began talks on opening their heavily militarized border in disputed Kashmir to bring food, shelter and medical aid to victims of the Himalayan region's Oct. 8 earthquake, which killed about 80,000 people, most in Pakistan.

Pakistan condemned the multiple attacks in New Delhi.

"The attack in a crowded market place is a criminal act of terrorism. The people and government of Pakistan are shocked at this barbaric act and express deep sympathy with the families of the victims," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the blasts "yet another example of terrorists' cynical and callous disregard for human life. On behalf of the British government, I would like to offer the people of India my support and deepest sympathy."

The attacks targeted the many people shopping just days before the festival of Diwali, a major Hindu holiday during which families exchange gifts, light candles and celebrate with fireworks. The markets where the blasts occurred often sell fireworks that are elaborate and potentially dangerous.

"When I got up, there were people everywhere -- they were bleeding and screaming," said Anil Gupta about 45 minutes after the blast as he sifted through the wreckage of his jewelry store. Scattered around his feet were bracelets, necklaces and earrings.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil urged people to stay off the streets. "I appeal to you. Please disperse from the markets and go back to your families," he said in a televised address.

Patil said 39 people were killed in Sarojini Nagar, popular shopping district in southern part of the city filled with everything from knockoff designer clothing to kitchen crockery. Fire department spokesman Jagtar Singh said seven people were killed at the first blast, and three on the bus.

The blast in the Paharganj market hit a small square and badly damaged a row of shops. About an hour later, investigators stood around a small, debris-filled crater about 10 feet from the string of shops. All around, broken glass and other wreckage littered the street, shops signs were ripped and twisted and clothes -- mostly T-shirts and scarves -- hung from low-strung power lines.

Police said at least 60 people were wounded in Paharganj and dozens in the other bombings.

A witness to the second blast, Satinder Lal Sharma, said some boys warned him about an unclaimed bag near a tree and he "started shouting 'Run! Run!"' just before the explosion. It destroyed several shops and left the tree charred and without leaves.

Govind Singh, who sells wallets and toys on cart next to a juice shop devastated in the explosion, said at least five people from his village were killed.

The explosion was "so loud that I fell down. Then a fire started," he said.

"I took out at least 20 bodies, most of them were children," Singh said. He and others wrapped the bodies in sheets that were being sold by one of the destroyed shops.

As he spoke someone asked him, "Where is Lal Chand?"

"He is gone," Singh replied, and then started crying.

At Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Dr. S.K. Sharma, the emergency room chief, said his team had received four victims from the first blast who arrived dead and "charred beyond recognition." They were treating another 30 injured from the same explosion, he said.

He explained that burns were not caused by chemicals and most shrapnel injuries were from flying glass -- not the screws or ball bearings sometimes packed into crude bombs. As he spoke, an ambulance pulled up and paramedics wheeled more victims into the hospital.


Sidharth Mishra / New Delhi

*Terrorists strike on dhan teras eve... *5 serial explosions... *55 dead, 164 hurt and still counting in... ----------Terrorists struck terror in the Capital on Saturday evening at will, killing at least 55 and injuring more than 164 people in five serial blasts. Many have suffered grievous injuries and may not survive.

Paying a heavy price for the lack lustre Government policy vis-à-vis subversives, a large number of women and children out shopping for Diwali on the eve of Dhan Teras fell prey to multiple terror attacks carried out with detailed planning and precision.

In all, five blasts took place- three killing 40 people in the crowded retail market of Sarojini Nagar in South-West Delhi, one leaving 15 people dead in the wholesale market of Paharganj in the Walled City and one on a moving bus in Govindpuri area in South Delhi.

Tragedy was averted in another crowded market, Chandni Chowk, where an explosive device was spotted and defused before it could explode. The police also found a bomb in Ambedkar Nagar bus depot late in the evening and defused it.

The explosions took place within minutes of each other with the first device going off at Sarojini Nagar at 5.45 pm. Since the powerful explosion occurred near a crowded snack bar, a gas cylinder was thought to have caused it. However, the magnitude of the blast and two other explosions that followed more than clarified that it was the doing of terror groups.

The blasts in Paharganj and Govindpuri completed the big picture - Delhi attacked on the day punishment was to be pronounced on Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operatives who had carried out the terrorist attack on Red Fort four years ago. A city court on Saturday, however, decided to keep the pronouncement of sentence in the Red Fort case reserved till Monday.

Veteran nurses of Safdarjung Hospital, who have tended to victims of several tragedies in the past, found Saturday's catastrophe unprecedented. Children who had gone shopping with their mothers were brought to the burns casualty wing of the hospital in ashes. Most had died, the few who survived have little chance of pulling through .

Sources in Delhi Police have not ruled out the role of Lashkar in Saturday's attacks. This is not the first time that the Lashkar has struck in the Capital during the festival season. In 1997, the Lashkar had struck in Karol Bagh, a market place not very far from Paharganj.

The 1997 attack was targeted at Roshan Ki Kulfi, a famous and crowded snack bar of the area. The difference being that Lashkar, then an emerging outfit, had used an indigenous device. Not surprising that a decade later, police sources said, the Lashkar has once again chosen to strike at a crowded snack bar. This time at Sarojini Nagar.

The Lashkar, a better-organised group now, this time struck with RDX, several times more potent than the indigenous device used earlier. The stark difference between then and now is highlighted by the casualties. The Roshan Ki Kulfi incident had just three casualties.

It goes to the discredit of the security agencies, including Delhi Police, that the terrorists have managed to strike for the second time in the Capital within six months after keeping a low profile since the attack on Parliament in 2001. In May this year, twin blasts took place in crowded cinema halls in Central and West Delhi, marking the return of terror to the Capital.

Investigations in the twin blasts unearthed role of Jagtar Singh Hawara, the Babbar Khalsa operative who had earlier escaped from Burail Jail of Chandigarh and plotted his next move sitting right under the nose of Punjab Police.

While a cagey Union Home Minister has said that he would wait for an inquiry report, the BJP has warned that Delhi has turned into a hotbed of operations carried out by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said the blasts were not an accident and an inquiry would be conducted to ascertain as to who was behind them. "There have been blasts at three places and it is not an accident," Mr Patil told newspersons.

Alleging failure of the Home Ministry behind the serial blasts in the Capital, the BJP demanded that the Government take all "actions and precautions" to prevent their recurrence. "Delhi has become the den of terrorists. Hundreds of terrorists, ISI agents and Pakistanis have been arrested and huge quantity of arms and explosives including RDX seized in the recent past. Necessary precautions should have been taken by the authorities," BJP's Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha V K Malhotra said.

Haryana, meanwhile, sounded a high alert and Punjab and Chandigarh stepped up security in the wake of the serial blasts in the Capital. "Security at vital installations like bus stands, railway stations and other sensitive areas had been intensified with the deployment of additional force and checking stepped up at barriers," Haryana Inspector-General of Police Nirmal Singh said.

"Buses might be used by escaping criminals to flee and we are keeping a special eye on this. All outgoing and incoming vehicles to Delhi are being thoroughly checked," he told reporter. Patrolling was intensified on highways, especially national highway number 1, GT Road at Panipat and at Karnal. Similar precautions were being taken in the suburbs of Uttar Pradesh like Ghaziabad and Noida.

Bombers’ trail

5:38 pm
Paharganj in Walled City
Bomb may have been on a bike parked near Mahalaxmi Jewellers

5:45 pm
Sarojini Nagar in South Delhi
Chaat corner in Central Square of market bombed

5:52 pm
Govindpuri in South Delhi
DTC bus on Mudrika route bombed

Terror blasts in New Delhi kill 55

Muslim Terrorists blamed for pre-festival marketplace attacks
Saturday, October 29, 2005; Posted: 6:36 p.m. EDT (22:36 GMT)

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Explosions ripped through three places in New Delhi on Saturday evening within minutes of each other, killing at least 55 people -- most of them at a marketplace crowded with thousands of people getting ready for India's festival of lights, the state of Delhi's chief minister Sheila Dikshit told CNN.

She said at least 31 people died at the Sarojini Nagar marketplace in central Delhi and the others were killed at the Paharganj marketplace, both packed with people preparing for the Hindu holiday of Diwali, India's largest festival.

Police reported that the blasts wounded 155 people. (Watch a report on the explosions -- 2:18 )

While it is not clear what caused the blasts, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office said he believes it was a terrorist attack.

"This kind of cynical attack on the people of India is just not acceptable," Singh's media adviser, Sanjay Baru, told CNN.

No group has claimed responsibility.

"It's a very sad day for all of us because Delhi is celebrating a festive season," Dikshit said.

Authorities said there were explosions at three locations, and the reported deaths happened at two marketplaces, Dikshit said. It was unclear where the third blast detonated. (A look at where the blasts happened)
Witness: Bag exploded

A man who owns a store near the Sarojini Nagar market told CNN's Satinder Bindra that he noticed an abandoned bag sitting near his store and warned people to get away. As people scattered, the owner said the bag exploded, gutting several nearby stores and causing a fire that spread to other buildings.

The explosion caused a stampede as people in the crowded market tried to get away.

Authorities said bodies are still being pulled from the debris, and they fear the death toll will rise.

Many women and children sustained serious injuries.

The blasts triggered fears throughout the capital, shattering some of the festive atmosphere that precedes Diwali.

Fireworks are often set off in advance of Diwali, so many people who heard the blasts initially thought they were firecrackers.

Authorities urged people not to panic and to stay away from crowded areas.

Indian authorities had issued some warnings in advance of Diwali, saying people should beware of the possibility of violence. Such warnings have become standard in recent years, and there were no warnings of specific attacks being planned.

While Indian authorities are blaming terrorists for Saturday's attack, they are not saying if a particular group is believed to be responsible.

Pakistan's foreign office issued a statement condemning the attack, calling it a criminal act of terrorism, and expressing the government's sympathies with the people of India.

Delhi was the site of a deadly parliament attack in December 2001, blamed on Islamic militant groups backed by Pakistan, although Hindu-Muslim tensions are normally centered in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Vedas, soul of India

by Dina Nath Mishra

Colonial rulers knew how to enslave the Indians. They derided Indian civilisational treasure and its contribution to world. They planned it meticulously, invented a number of theories, wrote hundreds of biased and seemingly scholarly books and projected dozen of myths. They knew that the Indians took pride in their Vedic traditions.

Disdainfully, they described the Vedas as shepherd songs. Let us examine this description. For example take Vedic hymns number Rig 1.164.11, 2.27.11 and Yajur 18.40 alongwith their meaning and essence, "The sun moves neither right nor left, nor east nor west but around which this earth and its satellites keep continuously moving and this secret only the serious and intelligent alone can learn, let me live in the light without fear."

It talks about Solar System, with sun in the centre and movement of planets and their satellites held together by gravitational forces. "The twelve spoke wheel of twelve months revolves round the sun continuously. Seven hundred and twenty pairs of suns in the form of day and night also remain present where the number of days and nights are 360 each."

This shows that Rigvedic people knew fairly well about the movement of the earth on its own axis and also around the Sun due to which they were able to calculate time, seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months and year. "The moon gets light from the ray of the sun named Susumna, indicating that the people knew that the moonlight was due to the reflected light of the sun. The Vedic period ended at least 5,000 years ago. The learned people of western civilisation were still grappling over the size and shape of the earth.

They were unaware of its gravitational force, whereas Vedic Scholars calculated the time of the rotation of earth, developed the calendar of twelve months in a year. Yet the Britishers had the temerity to call these Vedas containing thousands of hymns like these as "shepherd songs."

Albert Einstein indirectly mentioning Vedic Mathematics opined, "We owe a lot to Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made."

Noted Scientist and President of India, APJ Kalam, described the Veda as, "They are the oldest classics and the most precious treasures of India. The soul of Bharatiya sanskriti dwells in the Vedas. The entire world admits the importance of the Vedas."

See the travesty of the situation. The myths floated under colonial raj are flourishing even today. Presently, the cultural genocide riding on electronic waves of the mass media is rapidly uprooting cultural values of traditional India and handing over the younger generation the western value.

Rupport Murdoch, the biggest media tycoon, through numerous channels have acquired leadership of the media. Other foreign and Indian Channel and Media Houses are fiercely competing with him without contesting for Indian values.

We have only to look at about a dozen talent hunt contests on the TV to realise what is happening. An Indian Idol, Abhijit Sawant, has become the youngest celebrity with one crore-contract. For all the competing channels, appeasing the base instincts of human beings is a compulsion in order to be on the top of the TRP scale.

The community life is vanishing. A greeting card, or an occasional gift from the children are the best rewards for the parents. Alongwith individualism, licentious freedom is ruling the roost in the west and they call it the best. What is more disturbing is that they are thrusting it down our throats through various routes.

Globalisation is the latest slogan of the west. The ongoing cultural genocide is symptomatic of the same old crazy idea. Pope John Paul XVI during his visit to New Delhi few years back, gave a clarion call to evangelise Asia in the third millennium for we did it in Europe in the first millennium, Americas, Africa and Australia in the second millennium and now it is the Asia's turn in the third millennium. Already, there are many conflict areas existing on the map of the world and the west is adding fuel to the fire.

The greatest historian, Arnold Toynbee said, "Today we are still living in this transitional chapter of world's history but it is already becoming clear that the chapter, which had a western beginning, will have an Indian ending, if it is not to end in self destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way - Emperor Ashoka's and Mahatma Gandhi's principle of non-violence and Sri Ramakrishna's testimony of religions."

Friday, October 28, 2005

A hidebound Jayalalithaa

It is unlikely that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa will change her supercilious and arrogant ways following the severe strictures passed against the State Government in the Kanchi Shankaracharya case. In a not-so-distant past when decent norms and values were still held high by people holding public offices, the petitioners would not have felt any need to knock at the doors of the apex court to seek to restrain a headstrong Chief Minister.

But in the rare case when such a course did become necessary, an indictment handed down by the highest court in the land would have inevitably led to the resignation of the concerned CM. Remember how the then Punjab Chief Minister the late Pratap Singh Kairon was made to step down following an adverse judicial ruling.

But nowadays our politicians are made of a different hide which can absorb all insults and reprimands without them feeling the need to react. In the present case too, it is unlikely that Jayalalithaa will construe the strong indictment of her government as a signal for her to express remorse. She will carry on unmindful of the indictment indeed she might try to press ahead with her vendetta against the Kanchi seer regardless.

Rulers wreaking vengeance on their enemies, real or imaginary, by misusing the police and other agencies of the State is commonplace in banana republics ruled by tin-pot dictators. But trying to hound out one�s critics and political opponents in a thriving democratic set-up like ours through agencies of the State is to justly invite a strong rebuff from the judiciary, which, mercifully, still retains its independence and impartiality while the other limbs of the State seem to have corroded due to excessive misuse and abuse.

The Chief Justice R. C. Lahoti and Justice G. P. Mathur in their order on a plea on behalf of the seer for the transfer of the case outside Tamil Nadu found that the Tamil Nadu Government was showing `interest in securing the conviction of the seer and halting the religious activities of the Mutt.�

Justice Mathur, speaking for the bench, indicted the State Government in the strongest of terms possible: �We have discussed above many facets of the case which do show that the State machinery is not only taking an undue interest but is going to any extent in securing the conviction of the accused by any means and to stifle even publication of any article or expression of dissent in media or Press, interview by journalists or persons who have held high positions in public life and are wholly unconnected with the criminal case.�

Further, the court disapproved �serious attempts by the State machinery to implicate lawyers even remotely connected with the defence of the accused.� Noting that the State Government �cannot tolerate any kind of dissent which is the most cherished right in a democracy�, the court strongly disapproved the attempt to freeze the accounts of the Mutt and to create �a fear psychosis in the minds of the people associated with the Mutt.�

The court transferred the case against the seer to Pondicherry, though it would have been ideal if it had been transferred to Andhra Pradesh, as requested by the seer, or even Karnataka. Since Pondicherry too is ruled by Jayalalithaa�s party, she is in a strong position to continue her foul games against the seer.

It is remarkable that the slew of cases against Jayalalithaa, including a case of disproportionate assets, were transferred to Bangalore following a plea by the DMK in the apex court. After she had regained power in the State, the Tamil Nadu CM was accused of interfering in the prosecution in order to come out unscathed in the cases against her.

Significantly, the silence of the entire political class and of large sections of the media following the strongest possible indictment of the Tamil Nadu government underlines the debasement of the secularist-communal debate into a clear appeasement of the minority community. Even her bitter political enemies such as the DMK have stopped short of seeking her resignation for fear of annoying the Muslim vote-bank in the State.

The so-called liberals in the media would not take cudgels against Jayalalithaa because they do not want to be seen even by implication to be sympathetic towards the Hindu seer. Consider the hue and cry the same people would have made were the court strictures to be passed against a BJP-led State government which was harassing an Imam of a prominent mosque. Hypocrisy and pseudo-secularism are two sides of the same coin called appeasement or minorityism.


Scholar pushes pluralism as way to cope with diversity

The Johnson County Sun
Mario Sequeira, Staff Writer
October 27, 2005

In predominantly Christian America, Americans need to practice engagement with other religions, rather than just tolerance or understanding, to help them cope with the country's religious diversity, a religion scholar said.

The word for it is pluralism, as compared to exclusivism or inclusivism, Harvard University professor Diana Eck told an audience of about 225 at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village on Friday.

The isms are not difficult to understand. Exclusivism is when a person believes their religion is the only true one and all others are false. Inclusivism is when a person believes their religion is the only one but tolerates other religions, and believes that people of other faiths will be saved.

In Eck's words, pluralism "is not just diversity, it's engagement with that diversity. It's not just tolerance, it's a mutual understanding that we need in order to move from tolerance to a society that has a very deep foundation that will support the differences that we will live with in the years ahead."

In a practical sense, pluralism is recognizing that our own understanding, our own language, our ways of relating to God do not exhaust the fullness of God's presence, she said.

"There are distinct communities that have distinctive languages and they can't all be folded into our language. When my Hindu or Muslim friends speak of their relationship with God, I can't water that down into Christian language.

"I need to let the difference of their religious language stand and inform my own, and it becomes a place where both of us are seekers."

Pluralism is also recognition that we can be religious without compromising the richness and integrity of our own faith, Eck said.

It is a concept that has occupied theological thinkers all over the world for the past 40 years, and more pressingly in the past 20, as religious diversity has become demonstrably visible.

Pluralism is a fact of life that we must work for, she said, and not something that will come naturally.

Eck is Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard Divinity School. She started studying, eventually teaching at Harvard, the religious traditions of India. She has spent a collective eight years in India.

She has written several books, some of which have won awards. The book "Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey From Bozeman to Banaras" won the Grawemeyer Book Award in 1995.

Her latest book is "A New Religious America: How a 'Christian Country' Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation." She is working on a book entitled "India:Myth on Earth."

Eck traces the beginnings of religious diversity in America to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. It was a historic act, removing the legal vestiges of racism from American immigration law and enabling people, regardless of race, to be eligible for immigration and citizenship, she said.

The act resulted, in Eck's image-filled language, in immigrants coming to America from all over the world, "bringing their Bhagavad Gitas and Qurans, their images of the Virgin of Guadalupe from Mexico, of Kwan Yin from Taiwan, of Vishnu, Shiva, and Kali from India." The Bhagavad Gita is the Hindu holy book.

Since that time, America's landscape has slowly but surely changed. As Eck says it: "A mosque rises from cornfields outside Toledo; a Hindu temple stands on a hilltop south of Atlanta, south of Houston, west of Nashville."

Other signs of religious diversity are the "Buddhist landscape of Richmond, Virginia or of my native Montana, and the mosques, temples, and gurdwaras of Salt Lake City." A gurdwara is a Sikh temple.

In the 40 years since the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Islamic world is not somewhere else; it is in Chicago, with its 70 mosques and half a million Muslims, Eck makes the telling point.

The demographic statistics are equally telling, she said. The 2000 census revealed that 10 percent of Americans are foreign born, which points to the highest level of immigration since the turn of the century.

The largest numbers of new immigrants are from Latin America and from Asia. And these new immigrants have brought their religions with them --Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Zoroastrian, African and Afro-Caribbean.

"People are still surprised to find that there are more Muslims Americans today than Episcopalians, more Muslims than members of the Presbyterian Church USA, probably as many Muslims as Jews," she said.

"We are astonished to be told that Los Angeles is the most complex Buddhist city in the world, with a Buddhist population spanning the whole range of the Asian Buddhist world from Sri Lanka to Korea, and with a multitude of native-born American Buddhists."

Eck thinks it is important to document the changing religious landscape. She has headed an organization called Pluralism Project since 1991 which does just that.

"Describing, from multiperspectival viewpoints, what this world looks is extremely important," she said.

"Developing a consciousness of our growing religious inter-relatedness and developing a moral infrastructure that will guide us in the years ahead are among the most urgent tasks of our time," Eck said.

She asks that we think deeply about religious diversity in order to help us understand our approaches to diversity.

To think deeply about religious diversity is to think about religious ideas, religious communities, religious sects, religious visionaries and religious fanatics, that have resulted in ferment, tension and competition, Eck said.

"America is our local workshop for working out these issues, and we have to get to work right here, if we are to reformulate and understand what we mean by 'we,'" she said.

She said there were acts of religious intolerance and violence but there were acts of outreach as well.

"If we lived in Lubbock, Texas or Savannah, Georgia, we might be the people who come together to work with our Muslim community in repairing and rebuilding a mosque attacked by vandals.

"If we lived in Portland, Oregon, we might be the people who speak out in disgust when the Christian organizers of a Mayor's Prayer Breakfast disinvited the Muslim participant," she said.

"And if we are in Kansas City, we would go to see "The Hindu and the Cowboy" at Village Church," she said, referring to the play about cultures and faiths to be staged tomorrow.

Slamming Amma govt, SC shifts Kanchi seer case out of the state

‘To get conviction, dissent muzzled...fear psychosis’

NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 26: In a stinging indictment of the Jayalalithaa government, the Supreme Court today slammed its conduct in the Sankararaman murder case against the Kanchi Seer and transferred the trial to neighbouring Pondicherry.

The order was given by a bench of Justice R C Lahoti and Justice G P Mathur on a petition filed by the Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati seeking transfer of the case outside the state.

At the end of a careful scrutiny, the court said, “The state machinery in TN is not only taking an undue interest, but is going to any extent in securing the conviction of the accused by any means and to stifle even publication of any article or expression of any dissent in media or press, interview by journalists or persons who have held high positions in public life and are wholly unconnected with the case.”

Disturbed over the attitude of the state machinery, which had even not spared the lawyers of the accused and launched criminal prosecutions against them hampering their right to be defended by a lawyer of their choice, the court said: ‘‘Even under British rule, when CrPC was enacted in 1898, Section 340(1) gave a similar right to an accused.”

The court said that the government’s orders reflected its intention to ‘‘create a fear psychosis in the minds of the [people.’’

The state government’s direction to banks to freeze the Mutt’s 183 accounts suggested that it was not only interested in securing conviction of the seer “but also to bring to a complete halt, entire religious and other activites of the various trusts and endowments and the performance of pooja and other rituals in the temples and religious places in accordance with the custom and traditions and thereby create a fear psychosis in the minds of the people.”

On the cases against BJP leader M M Joshi, DMK leader K Karunanidhi and journalist S Gurumurthy “merely because they expressed some dissent against the arrest of the petitioner”, it said this “shows the attitude of the state that it cannot tolerate any kind of dissent, which is the most cherished right in a democracy guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution”.

The apex court also castigated the role of Kanchipuram SP Prem Kumar, who headed the Special Team that probed the case. It said he had prompted the approver Ravi Subramaniam to make insinuations against a senior counsel for the accused.

The bench observed that the accused did have a “reasonable apprehension” that they would not get justice in the state. Transferring it to Pondicherry, said the court, would also take care of any language problem.

Jayendra Saraswati was arrested from Mehboobnagar in Andhra on November 11 last year in connection with the murder of Sankararaman, a temple manager. The seer was accused of masterminding the murder as the deceased did nto approve his style of functioning.

Later his junior, Vijayendra, was also arraigned as an accused in the case and arrested. The case is currently pending in the Principal Sessions Court, Chengelpet.

UPA’s sinister plan to please Pakistan

A sell-off in the offing?
First Siachen, then Sir Creek to be surrendered?
By Prof. M.D. Nalapat

A sinister plan to undermine India’s national security is underway. In the name of confidence building a plan to gift first Siachen and thereafter Sir Creek to the Pakistan army is in the offing.

Goaded and prodded by shadowy quislings who enjoy the confidence of the UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the Indian Army is silently being pressurised to accept a withdrawal of its forces from the Siachen glacier. The reasons given, which not coincidentally are the same as those supplied by the Pakistan army, (1) maintaining the base on the glacier is “too expensive at Rs 4 crores a day”, (2) soldiers are at risk of mental and physical illness because of duty there and (3) the Siachen glacier is of “zero strategic value”. All three propositions are false.

First, the expense of the Siachen post. A withdrawal from the heights would save only Rs 1.2 crore per day in total expenses, as other expenses would continue to be incurred, hence creating an effective saving of less than Rs 450 crore a year after the withdrawal rather than the claimed benefit of nearly Rs 1500 crore. As it is safe to assume that Pakistan will use the Indian retreat from Siachen to infiltrate several hundred more jihadis, eliminating them would prove much more financially expensive than holding on to Siachen, and much more costly in blood. Thanks to the boost that the withdrawal will give to jihadi morale, the total expenses on fighting the ISI-led insurgency in Kashmir would substantially increase.Thus the argument that a Siachen withdrawal would save money is a lie.

By agreeing to a joint survey at the present time, the UPA government has begun the process of ceding Indian territory to Pakistan, that too without firing a shot.

Second, the troop morale. India’s jawans are among the finest in the world, ready to undergo incredible hardship and risk to protect the territory of the country, a quality demonstrated at Kargil in 1999. However, for this they need to be sure that their government will back them in their bravery and not stab them in the back the way it happened at Tashkent in 1966 or Shimla in 1972. Also, during the time when George Fernandes was Defence Minister, the soldiers at Siachen finally were given suitable winter kits and their living conditions improved, something that his many predecessors had not bothered about. Since the UPA took office, no significant extra effort has gone into making the living and working conditions for Siachen-based troops better. The reason lies in the desire of those close to Sonia Gandhi to speedily gift the glacier to Pervez Musharraf.

Third, far from having only “zero” strategic value, control over the Siachen heights enables the army to monitor infiltration of terrorists into the rest of Kashmir. The Indian army post—the world’s highest—dominates the surrounding area, providing a vantage point even towards the Karakoram Highway, which is just 180 kilometres away from the main force, well within range. One reason why the Pakistan army has been demanding an Indian withdrawal is that such a move would take away troops from a region of which 5,128 square kilometres of territory stolen from India have been gifted to China by Pakistan. A major reason for Beijing’s desire to force an Indian withdrawal from Siachen is that the glacier could in time be an ideal location to host sensitive equipment that could keep electronic watch over a huge swathe of territory that would include Xinjiang and Tibet. Small wonder that both Pakistan and China are delighted by the persistent US pressure on India to get its troops out of the Siachen glacier, the way Soviet bullying forced Lal Bahadur Shastri to surrender Haji Pir in 1966. The Bush White House, infatuated with Musharraf to the extent that it has condoned the A.Q. Khan coterie, wants New Delhi to make the painful concessions that the CIA and the State Department hope will stabilise Musharraf’s position among his restive Corps Commanders. In short, the US wants India to surrender territory to feed the jihadi beast that is the Pakistan army.

Fourth, the fact is that the “Siachen Line” does not exist except as territory on which Indian troops are stationed. Once the troops go, the line will itself be dissolved, as the facts on the ground will alter. Ominously, while the Pakistan Army has jeepable roads that can enable it to occupy (vacated) Indian posts in Siachen in less than 40 hours, the terrain on the Indian side is so inhospitable that it would take a minimum of 15 days to get back to the posts. Thus, the risk of a Pakistani capture of the Siachen positions is high, especially when Pervez Musharraf, the treacherous individual who broke all norms and commitments by his action in Kargil, remains in charge in Pakistan.

Indeed, some of them are now working out other locations from where they can get Indian troops to withdraw after Siachen is surrendered, on the grounds of “economy” and “rationalisation”. In this task, they are in close touch with individuals such as Ijaz Mansur and Farooq Kathwari, who have provided significant help to jihadis in Kashmir on behalf of the Pakistan army and are yet feted by the Bush White House. Sadly, such individuals were very influential even during the time of the NDA government, when a certain high official would get instructions on Kashmir policy from those who were acting on behalf of the Pakistan army. An example of such treachery, concerning Sir Creek, will be given later.

They are planning to beguile the Indian public by propagating some conditionalities under which this withdrawal is executed. These superficially plausible conditions include getting the Pakistan army “to agree in writing to verification of positions”, so as to prevent a Kargil-style intrusion into the space vacated by India. The entire post-1947 experience of consistent bad faith on the part of the jihadi army of Pakistan has been ignored by these quislings. The fact is that a written agreement with Pakistan is usually not worth the paper it is written on, and that once Siachen—as is inevitable—gets captured by a Pakistan army thrust after India deserts the post, it will be almost impossible to reclaim the lost land. Ironically, it was precisely because of extreme bad faith by Pakistan in 1984 that Rajiv Gandhi ordered that Siachen be captured, which it was, in a bold move by the army. Now the very government that claims to be guided by the memory of this young leader is silently working to destroy an important part of his legacy by following the example set by Jawaharlal Nehru of blithely surrendering Indian territory. The quislings who are active within key decision-making groups close to the UPA Chairperson want the reteat from Siachen to take place within the next three months. They have promised the Pakistan army that they will secure an Indian withdrawal from another territory, one that is potentially rich in oil deposits. This is the region known as Sir Creek on the maps. This month, clearly under orders from a level far above than that of Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh conceded Pakistan’s demand that a “joint survey” by both countries would take place in Sir Creek. This means in effect that India will lose nearly 2000 square kilometres of (potentially oil-rich) territory to the generals in Islamabad, a fact well known to the shadowy individuals advising Sonia Gandhi. These quislings are well aware that the river in the area often changes course, sometimes moving to the west and sometimes to the east, and that at this particular point in time the river is on a course that would favour Pakistan. In other words, if a survey were carried out now, the resulting agreement would mean that the Sir Creek region—1920 square kilometres of India’s land—would get transferred to Pakistan. What is needed to protect Indian interests is to agree to a joint survey only when the course of the river changes westwards again, thus favouring the Indian position. However, the MEA was forced by some higher authority to agree to a survey now, a time that is totally disadvantageous to India. The reason of course is the rush by the quislings advising the UPA to cede even more Indian territory to their favourite country, Pakistan.

In fact, Pakistan has deliberately altered the course of the river to its advantage, by building dams upstream in specific locations. There is no need at all for a joint survey, for the region has already been fully demarcated as a result of the 1914 and 1924 agreements between the Rann of Kutch and Sindh Province. A clear east-west demarcation line was arrived at, which was later demarcated by pillars. Over time, several of these pillars have disappeared or been deliberately removed, but instead of replacing them, unfortunately the then NDA government made a major concession to Pakistan in 2003 by agreeing to a joint survey, rather than acting unilaterally on what is Indian territory. In the case of Sir Creek, all that is needed is to replace the pillars that have disappeared or been stolen with new ones, not consent to any formula that would surrender land. Unfortunately, by agreeing to a joint survey at the present time, the UPA government has begun the process of ceding Indian territory to Pakistan, that too without firing a shot.

Were the PMO to permit the MEA to go through with a fresh re-survey of the Sir Creek region at this time, when conditions on the ground are adverse to India, the UPA’s supremo Sonia Gandhi will be held accountable to the people of India for every square inch of Indian territory that is thereby surrendered to Pakistan. Unless the quislings who are playing the Pakistan army’s game on Siachen and Sir Creek are rendered ineffective, India may find itself once again losing territory now in its control, this time by internal subversion rather than by external aggression. Both Natwar Singh and Manmohan Singh need to refuse to play this treasonable game.

'Abolish Caste'

Article 7 — and quotas —have not worked, says Suraj Bhan. The solution: kill the law.

Is this another Sangh parivar attempt to play their unstated upper-caste card? In a controversial move, the chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Suraj Bhan, has decided to recommend to the President that Article 17 of the Constitution dealing with untouchability be amended, and reservations abolished. He has proposed this be done in five years after studying the amendment's impact. For Bhan, untouchability is still widely prevalent despite Article 17, and reservations have been made a mockery of.

Hear him out and it would seem that untouchability, one of the ills of Hindu society, can be done away by merely changing a few words in the Constitution.

Declares Bhan: "All it needs is an addition of one word. Instead of the Article stating 'Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden', it should read: 'Caste system and untouchability stand abolished'." His proposal
will be part of a special report on the status of the scheduled castes, details of atrocities committed against Dalits, bogus registration of scheduled castes and recommendations to remove the anomalies, to be presented to President Abdul Kalam three months from now.

The commission's proposals being recommendatory in nature, Bhan says the government has to respond within a month of the report being made public. "The government has to give reasons for accepting or rejecting our proposals," he says. In fact, the government has to submit an action taken report within a month to the commission, set up under Article 338 to oversee the implementation of various safeguards provided to scheduled castes under the Constitution.

For the last couple of months, Bhan, an NDA government appointee, has been talking to religious heads to seek their endorsement on his grand move to amend Article 17.

Says Bhan, "The religious heads of virtually all Hindu organisations (read the RSS and VHP) are with me. I have the endorsement of VHP's Praveen Togadia and Ashok Singhal." Bhan argues that untouchability is part of the caste system and will remain as long as the system does. "Once the system goes, the practice too will end," he says.

As for scrapping reservation for scheduled castes, Bhan argues that instances of bogus claims (higher caste members claiming to be Dalits) have been on the rise and reserved seats are not being filled on the plea that there aren't enough suitable candidates. "How can one become a scheduled caste if not by birth?" he asks.

While Bhan says he is willing to debate his stand, his views have upset the pro-reservation intellectuals and activists. Asks D. Shyam Babu, fellow at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation: "What purpose is served by amending Article 17? After all, laws have been passed to strengthen Article 17 and if untouchability prevails, one needs to question the non-implementation of the laws passed in support of Article 17." Bhan counters that the Prevention of Atrocities Act and the Civil Rights Protection Act haven't even made a dent in the system. "The conviction rate is hardly 2 per cent in such cases, that is if they're taken note of at all," he says.

About reservations, Bhan says bogus candidates are claiming scheduled caste status to avail of special privileges and the incidents seem to be only increasing with each passing year. "In the Badayun district of UP alone, 300 false cases came to our notice. Moreover, when we sent a questionnaire to states seeking information on the steps being taken to improve the lot of SC students, their answers invariably were 'almost nothing'," says Bhan. Rather than ensure that laws are complied with and reservation not misused, the chairman would rather just abolish the caste system via an amendment.

Among the other changes he has proposed are the deletion of objectionable references to Dalits in the scriptures, Manusmriti and Ramcharit Manas. "Expunge derogatory references in them," recommends Bhan.

He also proposes dropping surnames in any application for jobs. "The surname is the first indicator of an individual's caste. We should do away with surnames. Instead, educational qualifications like BA or MA can be prefixed."

Reactions to Bhan's proposals have swung from open scepticism to downright rejection. "Why doesn't he have the courage to denounce the scriptures instead of proposing to amend the Constitution? Will his party allow him to do that," counters D. Raja of the CPI. He cautions that Bhan's proposal should be debated politically and that the UPA is committed to reservation in the CMP.

"Our party is committed to a casteless society but the ground reality is different. That's why Parliament has felt the need to extend reservation after every 10 years, though it was meant only for the first 10 years after the Constitution was accepted," says Raja. He accuses Bhan and the BJP for
proposing a formula without taking into account the prevalent situation. "Untouchability is prohibited but practised in different ways. What Bhan should be looking at is how to strengthen Article 17 rather than proposing to amend it," says Raja.

Union rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad says it's not the right time to remove reservations. "The Constitution makers did put a 10-year time limit, but the ground realities forced them to extend it. The scheduled castes have not been coopted yet into society and reservations should stay till that happens," says Prasad.

Raja is not alone in questioning Bhan's motives.

Social activist Kancha Iliah says such an amendment will be scuttled even as it is proposed. Having presented his case to the US House Committee on Human Rights, Iliah said, "we have asked for affirmative action from the US specially in companies run by them and other MNCs, and informed the committee that the Indian government supports reservation in the private sector". Iliah senses a brahminical conspiracy behind the move to scrap reservations when he says that the RSS has always been opposed to reservation. "Did Suraj Bhan ask for the caste system to be banished from the religious pithas when he went about seeking their support?" asks Iliah.

But Bhan is prepared for an onslaught of criticism. Meanwhile, Dalit activist Chandra Bhan Prasad says the commission should get realistic and not widen the already existing rift in the system. "When we're debating over whether to allow reservation in the private sector, the commission should be exploring those avenues," he says. But the chairman of the SC Commission believes he is on the right track. Two birds with one stone. Abolish caste. With it, reservation.


'Secular parties started violence in Mau'

[ Thursday, October 27, 2005 04:53:36 pmPTI ]

VARANASI: Accusing some political parties of instigated violence during the recent communal violence in Mau district of Uttar Pradesh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Thursday said that the majority community may be compelled to take law into their hands to defend themselves.

"Neither the state government nor the Centre took appropriate and punitive actions to rein in the members of the Muslim community who attacked the lives and properties of the Hindus for several days in the district," VHP international president Ashok Singhal said.

He alleged that the 'so-called secular parties' had instigated the members of the other community for narrow political gains.

Singhal accused Mulayam Singh Yadav's government of playing a 'partisan role', and urged the state Governor T V Rajeswar Rao, who had visited the strife-torn district on October 22 last, to use his discretionary powers to recommend dismissal of the state government and imposition of the President's rule in the state.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

For now, just forget ‘secular’ madrasas

DNA [Daily News & Analysis]
Poornima Swaminathan
Wednesday, October 26, 2005 00:21 IST

The revolutionary proposal to introduce a ‘secular syllabus’ in over 2,600 madrasas (Muslim gurukuls) across the state, has been shelved — at least for now — following stiff resistance by influential members of the community.

The move was mooted by the Maharashtra State Minority Commission (MSMC) and a few prominent Muslim organisations.

The MSMC had moved an application to the Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil last month, proposing a board to regulate the activities of the madrasas in state. Patil had invited suggestions from community members and ordered the formation of a semi-government committee to look into the proposal. It also envisaged introducing English, Hindi, Marathi and computer courses along with the regular religious studies.

According to Kamran Sultana Syed, officer on special duty, Maharashtra State Minorities Commission, the disunity among community members is a primary cause. “Moreover, the officer in charge of the committee S A H Abidi has been transferred as the chairman of the Nashik SSC Board. This has hampered work to a large extent,” Syed pointed out.

There is a strong resistance from the community leaders themselves. They insist on religious control of the madrasas stating that the formation of the board will lead to state interference. “We will lose our control over the madrasas. We totally oppose the Board. It will only lead to a loss of identity,” said Maulana Wasis Jamal Quadri, in-charge of the delegation that expressed discontent to the State Government.

However, other community members feel the government should take a bold stand and overcome the resistance posed by a few leaders of the community. “On any issue, there are bound to be dissenting voices. The government should keep the larger interests of the community in mind and implement the proposal,” observed Syed Noori, general secretary, Raza Academy.

By introducing a secular syllabus, the MSMC had sought to shake off the popular perception that madrasas are ‘extremist’ dens. There are about 65 madrasas which teach over 3,500 students and 513 maktubs (primary schools which impart religious knowledge) which cater to about 10,000 children in Mumbai alone.

Currently, the madrasas impart written knowledge of Urdu and Arabic and teach the Holy Qu’ran in Arabic. Under the proposed Board, each madrasa can avail of Rs one lakh every year to buy books and equip them with other technologies. In case the Board is formed and is effective, madrasas can issue certificates which will be recognised by the government and enable the students to get jobs.

'SC verdict proves TN govt biased against seers'

Press Trust of India
Posted online: Wednesday, October 26, 2005 at 1435 hours IST

New Delhi, October 26: The Vishva Hindu Parishad today said the Supreme Court order transferring trial of the Kanchi Shankaracharyas in the Sankararaman murder case to Pondicherry ‘proved’ that the Tamil Nadu government was ‘biased’ against them.

"The apex court's order has proved beyond doubt that the state government was prejudiced against the two Shankaracharyas," VHP senior vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore told PTI.

He expressed confidence that both the seers will get justice ‘even if delayed’.

The VHP had been at the forefront of the agitation against the arrest of the Shankaracharya.

Supreme Court raps TN govt, police

Chennai Online News Service

New Delhi, Oct 26: Shifting the Sankararaman murder case to Pondicherry, the Supreme Court today observed that there was a case for "reasonable apprehension" that the accused will not get justice in Tamil Nadu.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice R C Lahoti and Justice G P Mathur also felt that the Tamil Nadu government was showing "interest in securing the conviction of the seer and halting the religious activities of the Kanchi mutt."

The trial will now be shifted from the Principal Sessions Judge, Chengalpattu, to Principal Sessions Judge, Pondicherry, a Union Territory where too Tamil is the language of court proceedings.

The Bench said, "We are of the opinion to transfer the case to Pondicherry as there will be no difficulty in recording the evidence in the same language (Tamil) in which all the witnesses would depose."

The apex court criticised the prosecuting agencies for showing "extra interest" in the case only on the ground that the Sankaracharya, who has been chargesheeted in the case for allegedly entering into conspiracy to murder, is the head of the mutt.

"It leads to an inference that state machinery is not only interested in securing conviction of the petitioner (seer) and other co-accused but also bringing to a complete halt the entire religious and other activities of the various trusts and endowments and the performance of pooja and other rituals in the temples and religious places in accordance with the customs and traditions and thereby create a fear psychosis in the minds of the people," the court observed.

The court said the action of freezing the accounts of the mutt demonstrates as to what extent the state machinery can go while prosecuting the seer in the Sankararaman murder case.

"The freezing of all the accounts (183) of the mutt and its associated trusts and endowments is a clear pointer to the fact that the state machinery anyhow wants to paralyse the entire working of the mutt and the associate trusts and endowments in order to put pressure upon the seer and other co-accused who are in the manner connected with the mutt so that they may not able to defend themselves," it said.

Justice Mathur, writing the 41-page judgement for the Bench, said the materials placed on record satisfies that various hurdles have been created by the state machinery in the case for the accused persons and criticised the prosecuting agencies for targeting the counsel, including senior advocates, who stood for the defence of the acharya.

"From the material placed before us, we are prima facie satisfied that a situation has arisen in the present case wherein the lawyers engaged by the petitioner and other co-accused cannot perform their professional duty in a proper and dignified manner on account of various hurdles created by the state machinery.

"The affidavits and the documents placed on record conclusively establish that a serious attempt has been made by the state machinery to launch criminal prosecution against lawyers, who may be even remotely connected with the defence of the accused," the Bench said.

The court took strong exception to the Tamil Nadu government's attempt to "stifle even publication of any article or expression of dissent in media or press, interviews by journalists or persons who have held high positions in public life and are wholly unconnected with the criminal case." (Agencies)

Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2005

On the importance of history

By M.S.N.Menon

“No study has so potent an influence in forming a nation’s mind and character as a critical and careful study of its past history,” writes the famous Indian historian R.C.Dutt. And yet generations of Indians have grown up in this country in ignorance of their past and have been fed on distorted history.

Have we overcome this curse on this nation? We have not. Perhaps we cannot. How can we write of our common experience of history when the Muslims treat the heroes of the Hindus as their enemies and the Hindus have greater reasons to reciprocate? Unless we resolve these fundamental problems, we will continue to fool ourselves that we have a “common history”.

Be that as it may, there are other things of which we are equally ignorant. For example, we do not know what the children of the world read about India’s history in their schools. We do not know the extent of the distortion of India’s history in world history, mostly written by imperial powers.

To project a truer image of India, it is, therefore, necessary to institute a study of what the world reads about India in its schools. This is the least we should do to prepare the country for its great power status in the world.

The fact is: our government and our universities have never wanted to know what students in America, UK, Europe, Russia, China and Japan read about India. And not knowing what they read, how can we know what they think of this country?

Dorothy Woodman, an English sociologist, writes: “Our (western) system of education and our philosophy, which too often continue to assume that all civilisations are based on Greece and Rome, induce us to treat Indian and Asian civilisations as nothing but a series of cul-de-sac. This distorted, unbalanced, arrogant view of history will change slowly when Asian writers reveal not only their own cultures but unfold, as in a Chinese scroll, the long landscape of East-West relations. Asian historians can help us to see ourselves as thay see us.” True, but have we got the historians, who can undertake these tasks? I have my doubts.

If the western view of Asian history is “distorted, unbalanced and arrogant”, have our own historians—the Marxists, above all—done a better job? They have not. They have made it even worse, for love of country, they say, is an un-Marxist failing of the bourgeoisie!

But they are in good company. Conservative historians of America objected to the inclusion of the Indus Valley civilisation in the teachings of world history to American students! And yet the discovery of the Indus Valley was of such momentous importance that it compelled the rewriting of world history. But, then, it is for Indian historians to insist on the inclusion of the Indus Valley in the history of the world and to see that it is correctly interpreted. Have our historians taken up this work?

Of course, there are sane historians in the West, who are for setting more rational “standards” in the writing of history. But to enforce sanity has not been easy. For example, is the history of Europe more important than the history of Asia? Does the “Magna Carta” call for greater attention than the Gupta Empire of India with its great achievements in mathematics and cosmic sciences?

Prof. Rose Dunn, who was the coordinating editor of Standards in America, asserted that “India was where the fundamentals of modern mathematics started.”

Perhaps the problem lies with us. How can foreign academics take us seriously when our own academic community is not insistent in promoting India’s image?

In the over half a century of our Independence, Indian historians have done little to change the image of India in the world. And there is much to change. There is little of historical writing in Sanskrit. The first historians of India were Muslims—Persians to be precise. These court historians were expected to extol the royal regimes, whatever the truth. Thus, what they wrote during the Muslim period are false, unreliable, biased. The British, however, found this useful to impress on the British back home that the Hindus were a primitive people, who needed to be civilised. So, whatever history the British wrote was undertaken to justify British rule in India.

Did Indian historians correct these errors? How can they? They were mostly Marxists, who were hostile to the spiritual civilisation of India. Naturally, they did great damage to our image.

It should, therefore, be very clear that there is immense work to be done to correct the three great distortions of our history—by the Persians, the British and the Marxists.

Western historians have naturally given little importance to Asia and Africa. Between 1750 and 1766, 58 volumes of Universal History were produced in London. Of these, four volumes were devoted to the Biblical lands, 11 to Greece and Rome, 27 volumes to Europe, and 15 to the rest of the world. It is clear that only Europe was important to them. That tradition has continued to our times.

This contempt for non-European peoples—it is nothing less—is inherent among historians and intellectuals of the West. This is no longer acceptable to India.

US dalit hearing simply scandalous

By Sandhya Jain

Successive Indian governments have failed to protest America’s propensity to misuse human rights issues for politically motivated calumny against nations it seeks to undermine to serve its foreign policy objectives. Shamefully, large sections of the Indian elite also betray unseemly desperation to report against the nation to US human rights committees, usually as quid pro quo for funds for their agenda-driven NGOs.

Yet, even by the standards of its normally invasive diplomacy, the US Congress’ decision to appoint a sub-committee on “India’s Unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 Million Victims of the Caste System,” is simply scandalous. Not only does it construe a gross interference in our internal affairs, it is also an attempt to influence the Indian Supreme Court hearing on reservation rights for dalit converts to religions like Christianity, which admit that they discriminate against dalit adherents!

In these circumstances, the silence of the Indian government, remote-controlled by the Roman Catholic Italy-born Sonia Gandhi, is disturbing. So is the silence of major political parties, especially those that claim a special affinity for dalits. In fact, the Indian political spectrum as a whole would do well to evolve a consensus on the issue of external interest in India, if the country is serious about being considered as a candidate for the Security Council. In this regard, it would be instructive to see how the Chinese government gives America tit-for-tat in the matter of its highly slanted human rights reports.

Actually, America has much to hide regarding its human rights record, particularly vis-à-vis the Native American population (what is left after the genocide by White settlers) and the former slaves imported from Africa. The shocking delay in providing relief to Katrina hurricane victims hardly needs recalling.

The silence of the Indian government, remote-controlled by the Roman Catholic Italy-born Sonia Gandhi, is disturbing. So is the silence of major political parties, especially those that claim a special affinity for dalits.

China, however, does not stomach America’s supercilious ways. When the US Congressional Executive Commission on China recently released its annual report, Beijing condemned it as “wanton interference” in its internal affairs and presented its own report on the human rights situation in USA. The document is voluminous (the Chinese are thorough), but even a few cursory examples suffice to show how self-respecting nations protect their honour. The “Human Rights Record of the United States in 2004,” released by China’s State Council on March 3, 2005, shows the dark side of the Statue of Liberty.

China points out that American society is notorious for rampant violent crimes, and that there is little security of life and liberty in that country. It cites a report of the US Department of Justice (November 29, 2004) that in 2003, citizens aged 12 years and above experienced about 24 million victimisa-tions. Giving statistics of several cities, China said America has the largest number of gun owners and gun violence increasingly takes a toll of innocent lives. About 31,000 Americans are killed and 75,000 wounded by firearms each year, which means more than 80 people are shot dead each day. Police violence is an equally serious problem.

China has made a fascinating observation! In the past decade America spent US $ 7 billion annually to build new jails and prisons. California got one college and 21 new prisons after 1984! This is because jails are a lucrative business, with a combined staff of more than 530,000, they are the second largest employer in America after General Motors. There are over 100 private prisons in 27 states and 18 private prison companies. As a result, the value of goods and services created by inmates surged from $ 400 million in 1980 to $ 1.1 billion in 1994.

As for jail conditions, in many states inmates are routinely stripped in front of others before being moved to a new prison. Male inmates are often made to wear women’s pink underwear as a form of humiliation. New inmates are frequently beaten and sometimes made to crawl. The conditions of women prisoners are naturally worse. Sexual harassment is common. The New York Times reported last October that at least 13 per cent of inmates are sexually assaulted in prison (October 12, 2004).

The Chinese government has made a detailed analysis of the political manipulation by the rich in the electoral process, the astronomical costs of elections, and the resultant favours to corporations as a result of election funding. Most poignant among the flaws in the US election system is the newly adopted Help America Vote Act of 2004, which requires voters to produce a series of documents such as a stable residence and thus effectively disenfranchises thousands of homeless people. America refuses to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and is home to poverty, hunger and homelessness, in spite of being the world’s richest country. From 1970 to 2000 (adjusted for inflation), average incomes of the bottom 90 per cent stagnated but those of the top 10 per cent experienced an increase of nearly 90 per cent (The Baltimore Sun, July 6, 2004).

Racial discrimination is of course very deeply ingrained and Black murder victims are five-times White victims; Blacks affected by AIDS are 10 times Whites (National Urban League, March 24, 2004). The number of Black people living in poverty is three-times that of the Whites. Apartheid is still rampant in schools (Schools and Lives Are Still Separate, The Washington Post, May 17, 2004).

The situation of American women and children is hardly reassuring. FBI Crime Statistics show that in 2003, there were 93,233 rape cases; virtually 63.2 in every 100,000 women are victims of assault. The number of abused women treated at First Aid Centers exceeds one million every year. More than 1,500 women in the US are killed every year by their husbands, lovers or roommates; nearly 78 per cent American women are physically victimised at least once in their lifetime. Sex crimes are on the rise in military as well. Women soldiers have been raped or sexually harassed in Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and other military bases.

As for children, every year nearly 400,000 children in the US are forced to engage in prostitution or other sexual dealings on the streets (The USA Today, February 27, 2004). Then, there are scandals about clergymen molesting children. Actually, the list is endless.

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A dialogue between the Hindu diaspora and American Christians

By Atam Vetta in Oxford

Shri K.S. Sudarshan is concerned about the activities of Muslim and Christian missionaries to convert Hindus (Organiser, issue dt. October 9, 2005, “Conversion is a menace”). He identifies a serious problem but, regrettably, gives no guidance on how to cope with this menace. A few weeks ago, he said that a swayamsevak can make suggestions for the consideration of the RSS leadership. I hope this invitation is also open to every Hindu in the diaspora whether a swayamsevak or not. Perhaps, he would allow me to draw his attention and that of other Hindu leaders in the diaspora to a possible solution so far as Christian conversions are concerned.

In the last 50 years the world has become rather small and each country and religion needs ‘friends’. Buddhists and Buddhist countries are natural friends of Hindus and Indians. The behaviour of some Sri Lankan Buddhists is an exception. The ‘Look East’ policy of the last NDA government, in particular, the reaching out to Buddhists countries was a step in the right direction. I have no doubt that India’s relations with these countries will strengthen. Today, however, I wish to say to the Hindu diaspora that it needs to make a serious effort to initiate and develop good relations with Christians in the West and, in particular, with the neo-conservatives (NeoCons) in the US. I hope that Shri Sudarshan and other Hindu leaders will consider my suggestion seriously.

Good relations with NeoCons will not necessarily stop the conversion activities of missionaries immediately, but its long term advantages to India and to the Hindu diaspora are obvious as the US is likely to remain the most powerful nation for the next few decades. It might also have a positive effect on Christians in the North-East in India.

Hindu leaders living in India need to be aware of the revolution taking place in western Christian thought. The Hindu media needs to explain this transformation to Indians. There will then be less Hindu victims of close minded Christian missionary predators who operate in India.

Traditionally, Christians believe in the Virgin Birth and Resurrection (the concept that Jesus ‘rose’ from the dead). The late Anglican Bishop Robinson in his book Honest to God published in the sixties argued that shorn of the Virgin Birth and resurrection, Christianity is like Hinduism. Today, only a few British Anglican Bishops believe in the Virgin Birth and Resurrection. (Anglican Church is the Church of England and the Church of India is its counterpart in India). I suspect that most bishops of the Church of India still believe in the Virgin Birth and Resurrection. This is because their knowledge of science and modern Christian theology lags behind that of Anglican bishops. Thus, a modern British Anglican bishop is closer to Hindus than the less knowledgeable Indian bishop. Currently, many Anglican bishops are busy propagating the myth “Christians, Muslims—bhai bhai”. It may be sometime before like the late bishop Robinson, they realise that they are very close to Hindus.

What about the Catholic Church? In the past, the Catholic Church has been strong on doctrinal issues. Now a change seems to be in the offing. For example, the main story on page 5 of the Times (London) on October 5, 2005 was “Catholic Church no longer swears by the truth of the Bible”. It stated that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Britain “has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true”. By any standards this is a revolutionary change. Such a change takes time to filter through to the masses and it may be some time before it reaches Catholics in India.

A ‘real’ Christian believes in the absolute truth of the Bible. ‘born again’ Christians believe in the literal truth of the Bible. NeoCons in the US are born-again Christians. President Bush is also a born-again Christian. It was the NeoCons’ efforts that increased the Bush vote by nearly eight million in the 2004 Presidential election. They are a powerful and rich lobby in the US and are likely to remain so in the next few decades. A dialogue with liberal Americans has been going on for a few years now and we are seeing some of the benefits of this dialogue. Now the Hindu diaspora needs to open a dialogue with NeoCons also.

Good relations with NeoCons will not necessarily stop the conversion activities of missionaries immediately, but its long term advantages to India and to the Hindu diaspora are obvious as US is likely to remain the most powerful nation for the next few decades. It might also have a positive effect on Christians in the North-East in India.

This dialogue will be difficult, more so because some of the NeoCons’ money is used for conversion of Hindus in India. In my view a dialogue is not only necessary but is essential if the Hindu diaspora wishes to have political clout in the international arena.

How can the Hindu diaspora initiate this almost impossible task? I hope Shri Sudarshan and other Hindu leaders will deliberate on this question and then provide an answer to the diaspora. As the task is almost impossible it will need the same clear vision and determination that the Jews have shown since 1956 to achieve a similarly impossible task.

For quite a few centuries Christians used the verse in the Bible (Matthew xxvii, 25) which says “His (Jesus) blood will be on us and on our children” to blame Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus (Jesus and his disciples were Jews). Jews were discriminated against and disliked by Christians for centuries. The only ‘good’ Jew was the one who converted to Christianity. The US was not particularly in favour of Israel. Indeed, to convince President Truman to vote in favour of the resolution to create Israel some American Jewish leaders presented him a list of Jewish voters in New York about a day before the vote in the United Nations. President Truman was impressed and the US voted in favour of the resolution. A vote against that resolution by the US would have vetoed Israel’s creation.

In 1956 when Israel at the behest of Britain and France invaded Egypt, President Eisenhower forced it to give up all ill-gotten gains. Jews then realised that the real power has shifted from Europe to the US. They launched a well co-ordinated and single minded campaign for friendship with the American people. The rest is history.

Leaders of the Hindu diaspora need to plan a road map to launch a campaign “Christians, Hindus bhai bhai” in the US. I suggest Shri Sudarshan should take the first step on this long, difficult and treacherous road.

A ‘secular’ riot

By Balbir K. Punj

The name Mau rings a bell in the minds of millions of readers, who could hardly locate this quaint town on the map of Uttar Pradesh, or had never visited India. Little known Mau was made memorable by E.M. Forster in his renowned novel A Passage to India (1924). Mau appears towards the end of the novel and its elaborate Gokulasthami (Janmasthami) celebrations herald societal reconciliation between Indians and British. The British, who had been demonized for dividing Hindus and Muslims, are no longer in the scene.

This year’s Bharat Milap in Mau, however, increased the chasms between the Hindus and the Muslims that had preceded the coming of British and survived their departure. The secular bandwagon, eloquent in their criticism of Gujarat, is conspicuous by its silence over Mau. Is it because the riots broke over Bharat Milap, part of Dusshera festivity, rather than over Id and Sanskrit pathshala rather than a madrasa was vandalized? Or is it because adherents of ‘religions of peace’ (whose examples could be quoted from all over the world from 9/11 to second Bali Bombing) went on rampage with guns and bombs? Or is it because criticizing a secular Chief Minister doesn’t have that publicity value as bashing a Hindutva Chief Minister?

Despite Red Alert and shoot at sight orders, mafia don turned MLA of Mau, Mukhtar Ansari was allowed to wheel through the town in his jeep with his armed goons. Whether he was becalming the rioters or instigating his ‘particular community’ is anybody’s guess. But on the contrary BJP leaders Kalyan Singh, Kesri Nath Tripathi, Lalji Tandon and Mahant Avaidyanath were stopped at Jaunpur on their way to Mau.

While we complain that why all the ‘Secularists’ who flocked to Ahmedabad in droves have not visited Mau so far, there is a similar complaint from the other side. Either side of LoC has been hit by the devastating earthquake of October 8 last although the damage is immensely more in PoK. The Indian Army is doing a commendable rescue and relief work in Uri, Baramula and other affected places in the Valley to the extent possible under these harsh circumstances. The Pakistani Army, even conceding the greater magnitude of damage and its poor expertise of relief and rescue operations, has shown little sympathetic attitude towards their own Muslim brethrens. One remembers how antipathetic Islamabad was towards victims of cyclone in December, 1970 in East Pakistan.

Even common Kashmiris have acknowledged that after Allah it is the Indian Army who is their only hope after the earthquake.

But PDP President Mehbooba Mufti and then Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of Hurriyat Conference made a sinister charge. Though independent of each other they begrudged why the India Inc. is not rushing to Kashmir like it did after the Bhuj earthquake in Gujarat (January, 2001). This according to them is a sign of rest of India’s apathy towards Kashmiris. The answer is too obvious to articulate separately. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, whose fascination for Pakistan is too well known, is otherwise a secessionist. His view, in normal times, is that Indian government should keep its hands off Kashmir. He is least bothered how four lakh Kashmiri Pundits have been expelled from the Valley since 1990.

Kashmiris, at least their leaders, have alienated themselves from psyche of rest of India in every possible manner. Their loyalty to India is conditional through Article 370. In the 1950s they had floated separate flag, separate constitution and separate Prime Minister. Babasaheb Ambedkar, who was instrumental in drafting the Constitution of India, had rightly said to Sheikh Abdullah, “You want

India to defend Kashmir, feed its people, undertake its all-round development, and give Kashmiris equal rights all over the country. But you do not want rest of India and Indians (to have) equal rights in Kashmir. I am the Law Minister of India, I cannot betray my country.”

Hence how could India Inc. be as generous towards Uri as it was towards Bhuj in 2001. Moreover, Gujarati industrialists both in India and abroad were dominant contributors during Bhuj earthquake relief. Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh; UPA Chairman, Sonia Gandhi and, Leader of Opposition, L.K. Advani have, however, visited the quake affected people. An ex gratia payment of rupees one lakh to next of kin of those who died in earthquake was announced to be released from Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. The Indian government is even sending relief material to Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf had understood to have created history by temporarily opening up LoC in controlled manner.

Unfortunately the only permanent human contact between Kashmir and rest of India is the Indian Army that is doing a Herculean labour in the aftermath of the quake. Even common Kashmiris have acknowledged that after Allah it is the Indian Army who is their only hope after the earthquake.

Muzzafarabad in PoK, epicentre of terror against Kashmir has been flattened. Yet the terrorist activities are continuing against Kashmir. Within two days of earthquake leaving a deadly trail behind, terrorists belived to be Hizbul Mujahideen Pir Panchal Regiment, killed 10 Hindus in Rajouri district of Jammu in a grisly but Islamic fashion by sliting throats. These attacks had not been condemned by ‘Secularists’. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is reminded of Kashmir as India’s responsibility when it suffers a natural calamity; and ‘secularists’ find their ‘secular’ conscience only when riot victims are Muslims.

Whether it is the riots in Uttar Pradesh (or Gujarat or Bihar) or terrorism in Kashmir, they are rooted in a conflict between India’s pluralist ethos and Islamic fundamentalism independent of British coming to and leaving India. India is the only country that Hindus have and they are justified in expecting to live in peace and security in their land. But they are plagued with different manifestations of same jihad that once brought down the Ram Temple during Babar’s reign and now disrupting Bharat Milap. In no other country anti-majorityism could pass under the name of ‘secularism’.

(The writer, a Rajya Sabha MP and Convener of BJP’s Think Tank can be contacted at

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Mau: Riot of Muslim intolerance

By Sandhya Jain

The unexpected outbreak of organised communal rioting in the Mau district of Uttar Pradesh, leaving 12 dead and several dozens injured in over four days of uncontrolled violence, despite the organisers of the Bharat Milap procession cancelling the October 13 show in the interest of social harmony, indicates a cultural intolerance that does not bode well for India. Political parties would do well to consider if this is part of a concerted strategy to enhance the growth of minority conclaves in India by driving out native populations through the systematic use of terror, a weapon used in Assam, Kashmir and other States.

Political parties wooing Muslim vote-banks through the promise of 5 per cent reservation benefits may also consider how far they can rise by encouraging the growth of such communal poison in the country. For sooner, rather than later, voters of their own core caste-based constituencies will be victimised and deprived of their lands and livelihoods, and there is no way that minority vote-banks can compensate for the loss of Hindu votes, though the presence of minority bloc voting certainly facilitates victory. But as Congress is learning in Assam, Muslims are quick to desert the political ladders they climb once they perceive they have the numbers and power to do without them. Assam’s 2006 elections will expose the direction of religion-driven politics, the outcome of which can only be lethal.

So slow was the UP government to respond to the riots that dozens of residents fled to adjoining districts of Ghazipur, Gorakhpur and Azamgarh in apprehension of fresh violence. Hundreds are seeking security in numbers by clustering together in makeshift shelters in fields and near railway lines, preferring the open spaces to their homes in the old congested bylanes of the town.

The Muslims of Mau wanted, through a display of extreme bigotry, to force Hindus to not celebrate auspicious dharmic functions and surrender their community identity for the sake of a false communal harmony.

It is said that violence began when Muslims observing roza protested at loudspeakers playing Hindu devotional songs on the occasion of Bharat Milap. This cultural intolerance that is regularly displayed on the occasion of Hindu festivals, even as Muslims spill over on to public roads and footpaths for the Friday namaaz, needs to be confronted. It bears noting that currently in Bangladesh, the rapidly depleting and terrorised Hindu community agreed to make itself publicly invisible on festive occasions, in order to placate the aggressive Muslim majority. Clearly the Muslims of Mau wanted, through a display of extreme bigotry, to force Hindus to not celebrate auspicious dharmic functions and surrender their community identity for the sake of a false communal harmony. This is what Mahatma Gandhi called the peace of the grave.

It is high time we called a spade a spade and examined the link between burgeoning ISI activity in UP and other States and the growth of fundamentalist intolerance. The courts must also consider, when riot-related cases come before them, why a local Muslim MLA was allowed to prevent police action against rioters for four whole days, before media coverage compelled action.

Shops and establishments were looted with impunity, and a Dalit colony attacked in the early hours of the morning and jhuggies set on fire, which clearly indicates premeditated action on the part of the assailant group. A temple was set on fire in the Kamaria locality, and we need to have a public debate on whether modern India is willing to countenance once again the medieval-style iconoclasm and vandalism of its holy places.

Residents fled to adjoining districts of Ghazipur, Gorakhpur and Azamgarh in apprehension of fresh violence.

Local independent MLA Mukhtar Ansari, who was finally booked for inciting the riots, shamelessly blamed the Hindu Mahasabha for tension in the city, even though police officials told the media that it was he who prevented them from taking firm action to bring the riots under control in a timely manner. Ansari, who has 36 criminal cases and a TADA conviction against him, moved about the city in an open Gypsy van, accompanied by armed henchmen, despite curfew and shoot-at-sight orders. Naturally, the mobs owing allegiance to him had a field day.

Much damage was done by the time Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav finally moved to suspend the Divisional Commissioner, Deputy Inspector General of Police, District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police for failure to quell the rioting within 48 hours. But the fact that Mukhtar Ansari is known to have close links with Mr. Yadav, and that this acted as a dampener on the police officials and district magistrate in the initial days of the violence, has done irrevocable damage to the Chief Minister’s prestige.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Urgent task before Hindu religious leaders

Vigil's Discussion Forum
Sunday, October 23, 2005

Three years ago, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam took upon himself the arduous responsibility of convening an apex body of Hindu religious leaders broadly representing all sampradaayas in Hindu tradition. This was not an easy or even a normal task given that the famed diversity of sampradaayas within Hindu religion had to be first acknowledged and then subsumed into the larger and uniting Hindu identity. But going by the reports received about the Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha which was convened by Pujya Swamiji in Mumbai in the middle of October, it was a remarkable gathering of Hindu religious leaders which sat for three days to discuss issues concerning the Hindu community.

The Hindu community has reposed great faith in this Sabha and hopes that it will give voice to Hindu interests and concerns and that it will evolve into becoming the apex body to protect the Hindu community from a hostile and inimical Indian polity. Some of us have thought long and deep about what ails the Hindus of this country and have come to the conclusion that it is their inability to come together for any cause – short or long term. The freedom movement as it began and later evolved in the 18th and 19th century with Hindu religious leaders leading the movement from the front around the issue of cow slaughter and cow protection and the Ram Janmabhumi movement in the 1990s saw the Hindus uniting as one with an overarching Hindu consciousness but unfortunately for Hindu society, this consciousness faded and has almost disappeared under the onslaught of secular politics.

The urgent task therefore before Hindu social, political and religious leaders is to kindle and fan the Hindu consciousness in all Hindus if they wish to see this nation assume its true identity as a nation of Hindus and a Hindu nation. Given the state of powerlessness that Hindus find themselves in today, what should be the agenda of the Hindu Dharmacharya sabha?

Evoking the ‘Hindu’ consciousness in religion and politics

In stark contrast to Christians and Muslims in India, Hindus suffer from a fatal inability to organize themselves as a single religious/cultural unit for any purpose. There must be only one agenda that must pre-occupy Hindu social and religious leadership now – to organize Hindu society which can be achieved by evoking the ‘Hindu’ consciousness at two levels – religious and political. At both levels unfortunately, to the utter detriment of Hindu interests the religious consciousness of Hindu society is fragmented. In politics therefore the religious consciousness is completely absent among Hindus; and their political affiliations, which overcome their religious identity, result in Hindus comprising 85% of this nation’s population, voting for different political parties and politicians who not only do not serve Hindu interests but are even actively hostile to it. The Hindu vote bank therefore, like our religious consciousness is fragmented. Hindu votes do not influence the electoral victory or failure of candidates and therefore serving Hindu interests or attending to Hindu concerns or resolving Hindu issues which have been politicized do not constitute the electoral agenda of Indian polity. The Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha (HDAS) must acknowledge that our religion must influence our polity and the HDAS must evolve into becoming the representative body to do so.

In contrast, Muslims and Christians, when they vote politically are only aware of their religious identity and vote as a community for that politician or political party who serves their cause. The Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha must understand that serving the Christian or the Muslim cause inevitably means that Indian polity has to take a position hostile to Hindus and Hindu interests. Venerable Dharmacharyas of the Acharya Sabha must promote the word ‘Hindu’ as being our common religious identity among their bhaktas and must awaken the Hindu consciousness in the minds of all Hindus. The word ‘religious’ is used deliberately in place of ‘cultural’ for the only reason that Hindus must now juxtapose their identity vis a vis Christians and Muslims who do not consider their identity cultural but religious. And the word ‘Hindu’ is also used with deliberation because today ‘Bharatiya’ is only the Indian version of secular India, an identity to which Muslims and Christians also subscribe – the pluralist, composite Bharatiya culture which they say is not synonymous with Hindu but of which Hinduism is also a part like Islam and Christianity.

In religion the ‘Hindu’ consciousness is fragmented broadly and very deeply as Brahmin/non-Brahmin, Saiva/Vaishnava, Tamil/Samskrit, This matham/That matham and North/South to cite only some of the divisive factors. This fragmentation of Hindu consciousness is not a trivial issue with trivial consequences. How serious and appalling the consequences of our refusal to organize ourselves as ‘Hindus’ was seen most terribly in the aftermath of the arrest of Pujya Kanchi Acharyas by the Tamil Nadu government in November 2004. The collective indifference/inaction of the Hindu community was there for all to see not only when the venerable acharyas were arrested and incarcerated but even when an intensely hostile TN state government under orders from Jayalalithaa refused the Kanchi Acharyas permission to perform pooja to the ‘Lingam’ inside the sanctum sanctorum in the Rameswaram temple. Jayalalithaa and earlier Karunanidhi could interfere even in the religious affairs of Hindu temples only because the Hindu community is not organized or powerful enough to put the fear of an electoral backlash into our politicians. Needless to say what happened with the Kanchi Acharyas can and will happen to other Hindu religious leaders and their mathams in different forms for different reasons.

These differences/rivalries within the Hindu religion have been normal and to a great extent harmless historically; but in the face of the terrible threat posed to Hindus by a hostile polity, and religious conversion and Islamic jihad and separatism by Christians and Muslims, even these small rivalries among the Hindus is an impediment to organizing our society for a specific purpose. Extremely distressing is the Hindu propensity to willingly allow outside forces to deal with our internal adversaries. We never seem to realize that external forces, when they deal with our internal adversaries do so for tactical reasons and extract a terrible price thereafter. Secular Indian polity which serves the minority cause can be considered only an ‘outsider’ to Hindu interests.

In November 2004 and thereafter Hindu society once again failed to come together cohesively in protest to put pressure on the Tamil Nadu government and the Chief Minister, to retract her move and to apologise to the Hindus for the terrible humiliation they suffered as a result. Needless to say, had something of this nature been done to a religious leader belonging to the minority religions, their religious leaders and their society would have come to the streets in a massive show of strength and violently. Undoubtedly, this would have brought the government and the administration to its knees.

The ugly face of the divisions within Hindu society and the pathetic face of Hindu powerlessness to prevent such a calamity from happening were obvious to all. The ugly truth was that the divisions within Hindu society and the absence of an overarching Hindu consciousness ensured that large sections of Hindu society remained impervious to the arrest and failed to see it as an affront to our Dharma or as a terrible humiliation to all Hindu bhaktas. Important sections of Hindu society saw the arrest as concerning only the Kanchi Matham while some of them saw it confined only to Tamil Nadu politics. The problem of a fragmented consciousness has been further compounded by the abject cowardice and self-centeredness of the average Hindu who will neither take to the streets in protest nor adopt a confrontational attitude, not even when events demand such a course of action.

Jayalalithaa, like all politicians understood this fatal drawback in the Hindus and utilized it to the hilt in her assault on the Kanchi matham and its venerable Acharyas. She knew that Hindus were timid/cowards (whichever way one looks at it), powerless, and more importantly she knew that because of their inability to organize themselves, there was no Hindu leader who would mobilize the society instantaneously after the assault to confront her or her government. The Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha must face up to this terrible truth about Hindus and contemplate the dire need for organizing Hindu society into a cohesive and powerful body which will give voice to the powerless Hindu society.

Why should Hindu society organize itself

Hindu society must organize itself if only to ensure –

• That there is a common understanding and acceptance of what constitutes Hindu concerns, Hindu interests and threats to the Hindu way of life

• That befitting the size of their population in this nation, this 85% of Hindus has a decisive say in the Indian polity which alone will end the profitable politics of minority-ism, the current idiom of ‘secular’ politics

• That Indian polity will respond to the power that such an organizing will acquire and deal with great care and sensitivity Hindu issues which have been politicized

• The organized ‘Hindu’ consciousness will also ensure that intra-Hindu differences of opinion and problems will be resolved and dealt with quietly and internally

What are Hindu interests, Hindu concerns and what are the threats to the Hindu way of life?

Hindu interests –

1 This country should continue to remain a Hindu majority nation and the territory under the protection of Sanatana Dharma

2 Our temples should be returned to their previous state of abundance and prosperity

3 Cow and cattle to be protected and their numbers to be increased

4 Agriculture to continue to remain the mainstay of our society and the basis of our culture

5 The institutions of family and marriage to remain sacred, more focus on women

6 Social stability, focus on reaching out to dalits and owning up dalit villages

7 A polity that reflects Hindu values and facilitates a Hindu way of life

Hindu Concerns –

i. Hindus do not have a sense of territorial nationalism, that Sanatana Dharma is protected only if its territory is protected

ii. Hindus do not yet see the dangers of religious demographic imbalance because of the growing Muslim population and because of religious demography

iii. Hindus have no state power

iv. There is no national or regional political party except which articulates or represents Hindu interests

v. Hindus have a self-defeating contempt and/or indifference for politics while the well-organized minority religions have a sound sense of how to use politics to further their religious interests

vi. Hindu temple funds and properties are under government control and there is no accountability on the part of the government to the Hindu bhaktas whose money it is, on how temple funds are being utilized by the government

vii. We do not have the constitutional right to start and run educational institutions free from government control and interference

viii. We are not organized to use the judiciary to serve our cause

ix. There is increasing violence against all animals including the spreading malaise of publicly drinking the blood of animals slaughtered for sacrifice; meat-eating is on the increase and as a symbol of rising standards of living

x. The cow and cattle population is decreasing alarmingly

xi. Increasing de-Hinduisation of elite Hindus and increasing alienation of dalits from mainstream Hindu society because of NGO social activism

Threats to the Hindu way of life

• Losing territory to minority religions

• Increasing political clout of the minorities in Indian polity; their power is in inverse proportion to growing Hindu powerlessness

• Politics of secularism which is hostile to the Hindu way of life – from continuing sale of beef, illegal slaughter of cow and cattle, transport of cow and cattle to Kerala and West Bengal

• The presence of the army and the police in important Hindu temples either from fear of terrorist attacks or because they are ‘sensitive’ which is an impediment to free movement of bhaktas

• Growing impoverishment of small, ancient and historical temples for lack of funds

• Inadequate government remuneration for temple poojaries and priests and the resulting depletion in their numbers; many temples have no poojaries

• Erosion in the performance and observance of everyday Hindu religious and cultural rituals at home

• General loss of faith

The Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha must contemplate on all these issues. But the most urgent attention is required to organize Hindu society with the overarching ‘Hindu’ consciousness with a view to giving Hindus a political orientation which alone can enable Hindu society to deal with a hostile Indian polity. Attempts will be made by influential bhaktas to dissuade their acharyas from acquiring a political orientation. While this attitude may not harm the individual mutt or religious leader, refusing to handle Indian polity will endanger the entire Hindu community as the polity becomes increasingly secular and minority oriented. History has shown that the best way to eat an elephant is to eat it one bite at a time. Persons who think the Hindu religion cannot be destroyed must look around to see how Indian polity has eaten away a great part of the elephant.

Radha Rajan
23rd October, 2005

Major Meeting of Hindu Saints in Mumbai,22nd October 2005

Rajiv Malik, HPI Correspondent,

MUMBAI, INDIA, October 22, 2005: "Though Hindus are in a majority, they are being given a step-motherly treatment in India due to the politics of votebanks and minority appeasement being pursued by the politicians and the successive governments that have ruled the country since its independence. The situation is quite serious, as on the one hand, the government is trying to control Hindu temples and maths (monasteries0 and, on the other hand, a top Hindu saint like the Shankaracharya of Kanchi Mutt has been treated like an ordinary criminal, and treated as convicted even before he has been tried. It is high time that Hindus of all sampradayas set aside their petty differences and joined the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, the apex body of Hindu Dharma, so that the Sabha could become a single voice that could claim to speak for the entire Hindu society and fight against the shabby and discriminatory treatment being meted out to Hindus and Hinduism in India." Thi s was the general consensus built up among the 74 top saints, many of them heads of various Hindu sampradayas. They included the representatives of all the four Hindu Shankaracharays. They had gathered in Mumbai to attend the second convention of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha which took place from October 16 to 18, 2005, at Sanyas Asharam, Vile Parle West at the initiative and under the convenership of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. He is a leading Hindu saint and head of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam which has its branches spread not only in India but in many parts of the world.

The total number of participants in the three-day event was around three hundred. Besides seventy-four acharyas of mathas (monasteries), mahamandaleshwars (heads) of several akharas (monastic orders) from different parts of the country representing seventeen sampradayas, over one hundred sadhus and sadhvis belonging to Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and around one hundred family people also participated in the c onference.

The 74 main delegates represented the following sampradayas (teaching lineages) and heads of akharas: Shankara Sampradaya, Akhara-Mahamandaleshwars, Ramanuja Sampradaya, Madhava Sampradaya, Ramananda Charya, Sen Sampradaya, Kabir Sampradaya, Satradhikar of Assam [Narad Goadiyas], Saiva Sampradaya, Aadheenams of Tamil Nadu, Varkari Sampradaya and Swaminarayan Sampradaya.

In an exclusive interview granted to Hindu Press International [HPI] and Hinduism Today, Swami Dayananda Saraswati said, "The Acharya Sabha has a large membership comprising virtually all sampradayas. The Sabha is committed to speak for Hindu Dharma and represent the interests and views of the Hindu population of the country. For the same reason Acharya Sabha shall have the mandate to engage in discussion with anyone or any government or any other entity including those representing different religions, on matters of importance to Hindus."

Swami Dayananda Saraswati pointed out that the acharyas strongly condemned the taking over of Hindu temples and maths by the government, and then running them virtually as government departments. He said, "Temples and maths are created by the offerings of the devotees. Whenever there are complaints of misappropriation of funds or misuse of money, the government tries to take them over. It is like cutting the head of a person if there is a headache. We feel that it would be better if a judicial committee is formed to look into such cases and solve the problem. Moreover, the temple wealth and income should not be allowed to be treated as a source of patronage by political leaders and used for purposes other than the welfare of the temples and Hindu society to which the wealth rightfully belongs. The most unfortunate and discriminatory part of the whole situation is that under the present laws only the Hindu temples and maths can be taken over by the government, whereas no such takeover of the places of worship and institutions of other religions is possible."

Swami Ji said that the Acharya Sabha had resolved to undertake the requisite legal research by a competent and committed team to contest the constitutionality of the discrimination inherent in the control of only temples which are places of worship and cultural importance and value to the Hindus.

Dealing with the subject of conversion, Swami Ji said,
"An alarming number of conversions are being carried out in the name of religious freedom. Now this argument of religious freedom is absurd, as in India no one is unsafe in pursuing his or her religious beliefs. Jews have openly declared that India is the only country in the world where they never faced any persecution."

He said that to tackle the problem of conversion, in the root of which were the financial incentives offered by those who convert, the Hindu acharyas will try to travel to distant villages and tribal communities where people need any kind of help. We will reassure the people that their indigenous religious faiths shall be preserved, and that their educational, health, economic and social needs will be attended to. Our mutts are already doing some kind of service wherever they are situated. We have even created All India Movement [AIM] for Seva, a public charitable trust which w ill serve the needy without bothering about their backgrounds in terms of their caste, creed and religion." In their kathas and pravachans (both forms of preaching) acharya members shall specifically discourage outdated discriminatory practices still prevalent in the Hindu society and strengthen the spirit of caring among their devotee population. For this purpose, Hindu Dharma Rakshana Samitis shall be set up at district and village levels."

According to Swami Ji the acharyas deliberated on the flawed interpretation of secularism in India. He said that all religions other than Hindus were political and served as vote banks for the different political parties. He said, "No secular country other than India pays money for pilgrims undertaking Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Even Islamic countries do not give such incentives to their nationals. Why do they do it here? Why do not they do it for the Hindu pilgrims undertaking the Kailash Mansarover Yatra? Is it a sin to be a part of the majority community in this country?"

Finally, Swami Ji mentioned the approval of the Hindu Acharyas for establishment of a Hindu Centre Of Learning, considering the need for instilling Hindu cultural values in young students and for preparing them adequately to face the rapidly changing world, still retaining those values. Elaborating on this, Swami Ji, said in a lighter vein,
"Our youth needs to know what is right and what is wrong. For instance the tradition of Dandiya (a traditional dance form) is religious but disco is not. A nd the unfortunate thing is that the youth today are mixing both Dandiya and disco."

The three-day event was held under tight security as besides Hindu Acharyas and saints, some of the well known leaders/representatives of Hindu organizations like RSS [Rashtriya Sevak Sangha] and VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] also participated in the convention as special invitees. As representative of HPI and Hinduism Today, I was the sole media person who was accommodated as a special invitee in the event while other media persons were invited only to the press conference held after the event was over.

For the information of the readership, this mega Hindu event was held in a 80 feet X 58 feet air-conditioned auditorium especially set up at a cost of around US$23,000 to hold this convention. Many who were present named the event as a Mini Kumbha Mela due to the presence of so many high profile saints attending it. The place outside the auditorium was always overflowing with the devotees of the various saints attending the event. It was heart moving to see the devotees rushing to have the darshan and blessings of the saints moving in and out of the conference hall. Due to strict security arrangements and the limitation of space inside the auditorium, a large number of devotees were not allowed to enter the venue of the event. The air-conditioned hall was equipped with a high technology audio system. Not only could one clearly listen to what the saints were saying but there were big colored plasma screens on which you could see the larger than life sized, live photos of the saints addressing the convention.


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