Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Patrick French on Hindutva

Recently Patrick French was invited to CNN-IBN coverage of Indian multi-state elections. During the course of the debate in which Mr French's contribution was scant he made these statements regarding the the Congress Party.

"The thing that the BJP does get, that the Congress does not get, is that India now has dynamic electoral politics. A lot if it has to do with the fact that the average Indian is only 26 years old. You have got young voters who are willing to shift around and back the BJP and I think the big problem that the Congress has made ... is the Idea that we are secular and we are saving India from Fascism, and I think until this recognition that most of the people that you spoke to in UP who are voting for the BJP were not doing it for reasons of Hindutva. They were doing for reasons entirely separate from that"

Mins 41- 42

Anybody with any sense of comprehension will conclude that Patrick has used Fascism and Hindutva interchangeably. 

Congress accuses BJP of 'X'.  It does not recognise that people are not voting the BJP for 'Y'. If he is not saying that X is same as Y then what is he trying to say here.

On my pointing out this fact to Patrick that he considers Hindutva to be Fascist ideology, he accused me of Xenophbia which I think was nothing but an excuse to avoid scrutiny. 

I pointed another of his writings to him. His article in BBC. Published on 6 Dec 2012.

In this article he says.

writing a few months after the events in Ayodhya, the historian Sarvepalli Gopal feared "secularism would be strangled and India would be heading for a fascist take-over… The siege to the basic concepts on which free India has striven to build herself has become more intense"

To this he said to me that he only quoted Sarvepalli Gopal and then went on in the article rebutting him. But even in this article he does no draw any distinction between Fascism and Hindutva. Instead after quoting Mr Gopal he immediately says this.

"In the year following the demolition, there were reasons for fear.

Across the nation several thousand people, most of them Muslim, were killed in riots; a series of bombs exploded in Bombay (now Mumbai), orchestrated by a Dubai-based crime and terror mafia; and minorities (including Hindus in far-away Karachi) became the target of persecution."

I don't see any rebuttal in this. Instead I see another linkage drawn between fascism attributed to Mr Gopal and Hindutva which Patrick mentions in the context of Hindu identity politics.

"Back in 1992, two political impulses appeared to be on the rise: self-assertion by disadvantaged castes and the use of Hindu identity as a mass rallying cry for voters."

"Hindutva has faded away as a significant electoral force. There will always be vociferous people who believe that Hindus are a voiceless majority facing insidious persecution from "pseudo-secularists" - but their influence is declining"

Then he says "Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians who are strongly associated with Hindutva, such as Lal Krishna Advani and Narendra Modi, now spend much of their time trying not to look like extremists."

I don't think there can be a clearer link drawn in one statement between Hindutva and Extremism and if you can comprehend the larger context of the article then the linkage with Fascism.

He then repeats the term Fascism. "Contrary to the fears expressed in 1992, the people of India show little sign of wanting either a religious state or a fascist take-over." Please note he says this again in the context of declining(in his view) political currency of Hindutva when he states "At the ballot box, Hindutva consistently plays badly."

So this is saying that Hindutva and Ramjanma bhoomi movement was a movement leading to religious state or fascist takeover.

So as I have shown Patrick french draws linkage between Hindutva and Fascism, never directly saying that Hindutva is Fascism in one sentence, but drawing a linkage with broad play of words, leaving no doubt in a readers mind that, Hindutva is an extremist ideology, is what Patrick is saying. Which of course, in his view has lost political currency, hence there is no fear of a fascist takeover any more.

The question is why have I gone through the trouble of explaining how Patrick makes these links. Whats wrong if he does and if that is his opinion? The reason why I went though the trouble of explaining this is because he denies that he draws any such linkage. He in fact claims that he has spoken against drawing such a linkage. When I point point out how he does he gets angry and accuses me of xenophbia and dishonesty. Well article from 2012 and the recent TV debate seems to suggest otherwise and readers will decide who is being dishonest and why. 

If he says he never meant to draw a linkage then it is only fair to expect from him a clear statement on how Hindutva is different from Fascism. Is it still extremism in his view?

PS: Please be aware that I do not make any claim of knowing what Hindutva ideology is. I don't subscribe to it nor do I oppose it. But what I do understand about it is that it is clearly not fascism which is a supremacist ideology of exclusion of others. Hindutva as is being claimed by the proponent seems to be an ideology of assimilation. Is it by force is it by persuasion? I do not fully know hence I am so far neutral on it.

Also Ram Janma Bhoomi movement in my view was far more complex to be given a short thrift as 'hindu extremism'.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Mix with all other communities and not live in ghetto

Here I am publishing a recent interview I did with Yusuf Unjhawala (@yusufDFI). Yusuf is an out spoken critique of radicalization of youth in various Muslim communities in India, a voice of moderation and a proponent of equal rights for Muslim women. Yusuf is very active in social media. He has a large following of supporters and a long list of opponents too. Yusuf is also an influential voice in Indian social media on defence matters and is an administrator at www.defenceforumindia.com

In this interview I ask him some questions which were difficult in my view, but the ease with which he has answered them gives me confidence that these are not so difficult to be shied away from.

1) To start with, please share some background about you. We know that you are an editor at Defence Forum India and have also written for publications like Swarajya Magazine on defence matters. But your main occupation is your business. A family business I assume. How did India Defence Forum India happen? From where did your interest in defence matters begin?

Answer: First of all thank you for considering me worthy of an interview.

Yes I am a businessman by profession. Not surprising as I belong to the Dawoodi Bohra community which is a trading community. Although many have moved into professional courses. I myself am a Mechanical Engineer.

My interest in defence has been from school days. I wanted to join to armed forces but it was not to be. But interest in defence and strategic affairs always remained.

In 2009, the forum www.defenceforumindia.com was started as there was space for creating an outlet for young and old on issues of defence. Twitter and facebook had not caught on in a big way and forums were more structured and focused.

2) Commonly when people look at India they look at it in terms of its modern administrative units i.e. the states. Another way to define India is to look at it in terms of its various communities. These communities are spread across physical boundaries but may also consider a certain geography  as the root of their sub-culture. You belong to one such community which has earned a lot of respect and good will in India. The Bohra Muslims. Could you tell us something about the community from your perspective? What has been the reason for the community having made such positive contribution to society and earned good will?  

Answer: The Bohra community derives its theological doctrine from the Fatemids of Egypt. It belongs to the Shia sect and within Shiasm, its part of the Ismaili branch. Fatemid dynasty that ruled was a time when “Caliphate’ and the political rule was one as per Ismailis. They ruled much of North Africa also known as Maghreb. From Egypt to Morocco and also parts of Middle East. At the end of the dynasty, the Imam went into seclusion and a post of vice-regent was established in Yemen called Dai commonly called Syedna.

They sent their missionaries to India and managed to convert people. So most Bohras are converts although normal migration and settlement would have happened from areas outside the current geography of India.

The Bohras got their name from Gujarati word vepaar meaning business. You will find Bohras all over the world. Bohras literacy rate is high both among boys and girls and that is probably why the Bohras stand out among other Muslim sects of India.

Bohras came into their own during the world wars especially the first. They supplied material for the British war effort and made a lot of money. Most of them had moved from their native villages in Gujarat to Bombay, Kolkata and later on to Chennai back then in search for their livelihood. Those who made this big money wanted to give back to the society and formed various trusts that ran schools, colleges, medical facilities etc. That they also got educated and the inherent docile nature of the Bohras have endeared them to everyone.

3) You have commented on some of the issues among the Bohra community. Like the issue of Female Genital Mutilation, recent influence of Arab culture and on the leadership of the community. What are some these issues that are subject of much debate and 'churn' in the community? What are your views on these?

Answer: Female Genital Mutilation or FGM has been prevalent in the Bohra community for centuries. One theory says that since the Bohras are a mercantile community with the men going on long tours in search of business opportunities, they got the women to undergo FGM to suppress their sexual desire. There hasn't been any debate within the community on this issue and years of what probably was a community or cultural practice acquired a religious color which has made sure that the topic will remain off the table of discussion. Also there was very little education on the subject for both the men and the women. The process is carried out by untrained elderly ladies of the community in utter secrecy on 6-7 year old girls. The girls have no clue as to what they have gone through.
All this has changed with the advent of social media which has exposed more people to the issue and there has been discussion within the community but its all hushed hushed. A few months back the Syedna cryptically announced that the process has divine sanction and must go on. This makes it difficult to even debate on the issue let alone get rid of it.

On the question of influence of Arab influence within the community, yes I have seen more use of Arabic words in sermons in the mosque. The Bohras are all Gujaratis and for a long time it was Gujarati which was the language of all communication. In the last few years, this has changed where a language called “Lisan-ud-Dawat’ (Language of Missionary) has become widely used. It consists of Gujarati, Hindi, Persian and Arabic words but lot of Arabic words these days which common folks dont even understand. Bohras are told Arabic is the divine language as Gods revelations in Quran is in that language. Ordinary bohras don't know the language nor do they make any effort to learn it. It is only taught in the Bohra universities that trains the clergy. I must say that bohras still use Khuda Hafiz and not Allah Hafiz and Ramzan and not Ramadan which is finding traction among other Muslims in India.

About the churn, if you are hinting at the ongoing power struggle following the demise of the previous Syedna, then yes. It split the community. Most “seem” to be with the son of the previous Syedna, Mufaddal Saifuddin and has become the dominant faction and carries the Dawoodi Bohra tag. The other faction has been called the Qutbi bohras although its not they who have named themselves as such and still call themselves Dawoodi bohra and claim to be the successors of the previous Syedna. The case is in the court. A court order will not change allegiance of people as they stand today but its more to do with the enormous wealth that the ruling cleric commands which is at stake.

The dominant faction has been using all the tricks in the book to shore up or show numbers including use of smart cards to track attendance of community members on various occasions and events in the mosques and those who don't come are questioned.

4) You have actively commented on this phenomenon which is described as Islamism. How would you define it? What is this ideology and why is it a matter of concern?

Answer: In simple terms, Islamism is political Islam. The use of Islam for political goals which will result in worldwide Islamic rule or Caliphate. It's adherents espouse a puritanical way and want to live life as it existed during the Prophet’s time. Non-muslims are called Kafirs and are expected to either convert or be dhimmis and pay protection money. This is what happened in the past and Islamists want to revive what they call the golden era of Islam when Muslims ruled large areas from Europe to India.  It's a supremacist ideology which has no regard for other religions. They don't entertain any debate on their practices and can get very violent as we see in many parts of the world. They follow a very strict and extreme version of Sharia law and deny women equal rights. They conduct violent jihad against “Kafirs” and finding causes with the purpose to establish Islamic rule across the world.

It is a matter of concern as this has led to spiralling of terrorism. No country is safe. India off course has been at the receiving end of terror from Pakistan. Its a state sanctioned Jihad and Kashmir is only an excuse.

The other issue that India faces is radicalization of its own Muslim population due to the extensive use of social media by the extremists in propagating their ideology. We have seen many Muslim kids to to Syria and join ISIS. there is a rise in the extremist wahabi ideology which is funded by Saudi Arabia. The home ministry is cognizant of the fact that money has come into India to fund mosques and madarsas with preachers from outside coming in propagating an extreme version of Islam. That is why a few months back Prime Minister Modi called on Indian Muslims to fall back on the Sufi ways that has always flourished in India over the centuries.

5) By and large the Muslim communities in India have escaped this ideology and most people reject it. But one knows that there is active influence being exerted by some sections/forces. Who are these forces? How can the various Muslim communities escape this? What do they need to do to keep the young generation on a positive path of prosperity and positive contribution to society?

Answer: Muslim community in India has escaped it by and large as they are Indic in origin and followers of sufi ways. But like I mentioned earlier, there is a wahabi influence these days. Add to this vested political interests are making matters worse.How can we address this is one question, will we be allowed to address this is another considering the politics that's played around.

One thing that is certain is that Muslims need to get educated. Get into public schools and study in multi-cultural environment. It's not that it will stop radicalization as we have seen doctors and engineers conduct terror attacks but it will to a large extent get them out of the narrow world that they live in guided by their faith and be more aware, respectful and considerate of other faiths and cultures. It will take them away from the narrow minded clerics who shape their worldview and motivate them to question and demand answers regarding practices and issues within the community and in fact get onto the path of reforms within the community.

But will it be allowed to be addressed? History has shown that clerics and politicians will not allow reforms. Prominent example is the Shah Bano case in which Muslims forced PM Rajiv Gandhi to legislate against Supreme Court order that went in favor of Shah Bano for maintenance after her husband divorced her. Or take the ongoing debate on triple talaq where again a Muslim woman has sought a ban on the practice which doesn't exist even in Islamic countries but strongly backed by clerics and Muslim politicians in India. The problem is they quickly declare any attempts to correct the wrongs as a war on Islam. Makes it difficult to reform both by the courts or by the reform minded members of the community.

The government has to figure out a way to clip the wings of clerics from the personal lives of ordinary Muslims. Engage with the intellectuals and common Muslims alike and delegitimize the role of self appointed and self serving thekedars of Indian Muslims like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. The supreme court has already called the issuance of fatwas as unconstitutional. We can go a bit further and legislate a limited role for clerics in the lives of Muslims to just leading the prayers.

Another thing that the government will have to take measures to stop provocative and radicalizing content that proliferates on social media.

6) Why do the influential people from various Muslim communities push Islamism under the carpet? Some don't like to use the term since it seems to in their view portray Islam itself in negative light.
Answer: I think the violent nature of Islamists prevents people from speaking up. We have seen what has happened to writers in Bangladesh who have been murdered. Then there is the use of blasphemy laws in Islamic countries which prevents people from speaking freely. In India too there are similar forces which scares people from raising their voices.

7) What do non-Muslims need to know about Islamism? How to single out this Ideology and separate it from wider Muslim religious traditions? How can non-Muslims positively address this?

Answer: I have already described what Islamism is all about. Thanks to internet and social media, there is awareness about it today.

I would also say that there are two parts to the issue. One that happens outside India and one that's within. There are different socio-political dynamics, i might add geo-political in the larger context.

In many cases what happens outside is applied to Indian Muslims which probably is not right. The situation in Europe for example is different & cannot be applied to India. Indian Muslims are ethnic of the country whereas there is a migratory,multi ethnic and multi cultural Muslim population in Europe & it has its own problems today with regards to integration with the rest. Indian Muslims are integrated into the larger population being of same ethnicity, language & Indic culture.

So there should not be any broad brushing of ordinary Indian Muslims who are culturally Hindustanis.

Then there is a geopolitical angle to Islamism in which the wahabi ideology is trying to penetrate across the world and use it to influence native policies. There is also a Shia-Sunni rivalry primarily stemming from Saudi-Iran power struggle. This led to propping and support of very violent groups of people in trying to achieve dominance.

Coming to Indian context, you have a few self styled Muslim leaders with political objectives indulging in competitive Islamism. Trying to push common Muslim population further into a more hardened form of Islam. This will only lead to further isolation of Muslims from the mainstream. Muslims as it is are at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder in the country. Isolation will only worsen the situation leading to more inward looking and greater chance of radicalization.

What the larger non Muslim community can do is to push Muslims into introspection by taking up various issues. The issue of Triple Talaq for instance or FGM has found support from wider population who agree that the practice is wrong and that rights of women need to be protected. This will emboldened Muslims to rise against such practices and break the wall or barrier that exists in not questioning.

8) Recently there have been some developments. Long after Shah Bano case now the case of triple talaq is in supreme court. There is also the case of entry of women in Haji Ali dargah sanctum. How are these being seen in the community? I would like to understand not just your view but that of the various Muslim communities.

Answer: Being from the Bohra community, I cannot speak on behalf of the larger Muslim community. But in this regards, Bohras are much better off. Women are allowed to pray in mosques & can go to any dargahs of Bohra saints or past Syednas and pray albeit there is clear separation of men and women within the premises. Also within the Bohra community there is no instant Talaq. It's difficult to get a divorce as all efforts are made to reconcile first.

But going by the reports and statements of clerics & some Muslim politicians, it's clear that they don't want to give women equal rights or their dues or give them a life of dignity. Recently Haji Ali dargah agreed to allow women in. So that is a welcome development. That there was a move to block women was surprising as women have been prominent in the spread of Sufism.

On the triple talaq issue, we now have comments from the Allahabad High Court which has observed that triple talaq is against the right of Muslim women and is unconstitutional. Justice Mushtaq in the Kerala High Court just a few days back said that justice has become elusive for Muslim women and the remedy lies in the codification of the divorce law. Justice Mushtaq went on to say that fear that uniform code on marriage will offend Sharia is a myth. The matter on triple talaq is also pending with the Supreme Court. The usual suspects who claim to represent Muslims are not expected to reform and keep harping on the keeping personal laws intact in the garb of right to religion. So it will need outside intervention by either the courts or the parliament to uphold individual rights which are violated in the name of religion.

9) What is the role of All India Muslim Personal Law board in Muslim life. How do people look at it? Who do they represent? What have been their positive contribution or otherwise?

Ans: the AIMPLB is an NGO which has assumed the role of being representative of all Muslims in India. Successive government indulgence and patronage has made it assume that. I don't know how many common folks even know about it. This has to stop. In this regard, the Allahabad HC comment comes at good time where it observed that “No personal law board is above constitution”.

10) There is view among some Indians that India is an artificial creation, that became a nation due to British occupation and they unified India. There is another view, that sees India as a civilization state. Some would say constitution makes India some others would say it is the civilization that has made the state and the constitution. Some fear that using such a formulation excludes people who do not consider themselves to be part of the civilization. How do you think an average Muslim looks at this? Do they not find themselves from the same civilization? Do they find such an Idea threatening?

Ans: LOL. India or Bharatvarsh has existed for thousands of years. This idea that India was born in 1947 is false. Anyways that's a topic in its own.

But since you refer to what an average Muslim looks at it, let me state India known as Hind has been mentioned by the prophet in a positive manner. It's another matter that Pakis concocted a ghazwa hadith.

The Muslims of India as people are no different from any other citizen. They are converts to Islam but that doesn't mean they become unrooted from what they are.

But in recent years thanks to competitive Islamism & influx of radical version of Islam, the need to be different has come up. So women who till a few years back who wore saris, salwar kameez,  are now wearing burqas. Men are growing long beards, wearing topi. Words that were very native to India are now being discarded in favor of Arabic.

Pakistanis who detached themselves from Indian roots in search for Arabic, Turkic identity, got into an identity crisis. Indian Muslims should guard against that. The clerics again play an important role in this regard as they are the ones who preach in mosques & teach in Madarasas.

11) What are your views on education for Muslim youth? Is modern education alone a solution to radicalization? After all Jinnah was educated in the west and he belonged to a community of Muslims who had a very composite culture. His mother's name was Mithibai. His Grandfather had converted to Khoja Islam and his family was a prosperous merchant family. All parameters and conditions seem to suggest the so called composite culture of India, yet we see an Islamist in him. What else could an intelligent man have seen except the current state of Islamism in Pakistan when he asked for it? Similar story exists for Iqbal.

What do you think Muslim families need to do and what should their non-Muslim neighbours do, so that youth do not turn to this ideology?

And: Yes Jinnah was a suited booted, pork eating, wine drinking Islamist who was seeking legacy. I mentioned earlier that some of the big terror attacks were carried out by doctors & engineers. So yes education alone doesn't guarantee move away from radical Islam.

But in general, education in math, science, social science, history etc in public schools is required for Muslims to be at par with other citizens of the country which will help them secure jobs and better lives for themselves. Mix with all other communities & not live in ghettos, indulge in exchange of ideas that broaden horizons which allows them to question ills within the community, break myths etc.

What non Muslims can do? Continue to be themselves as their ancestors were in being accommodating. All 180 million Muslims are not extremists or terrorists. Once you base everything on the presumption that all Muslims are potential terrorists, it will make it difficult to fight radical Islam.

The fight against radical Islam is not going to be easy. It's going to take generations to reform. Educating current & future generations of Muslims in secular schools, regulating what's taught in mosques & Madarasas will help develop the minds of Muslims away from radical ideas.

Friday, 18 November 2016


शरीर में जो मदिरा है,
राजा बोला ख़तरा है।
लग कतार जंचवाना है,
खून में किसके मदिरा है।।

सारी मदिरा मिटाउंगा,
खून भी साफ कराउंगा।
पुराना रक्त अब काला है,
नया सफेद बदलाना है।।

जिसमें जितनी मदिरा है,
उतना खून सुखाना है।
नये खून पे राशन है,
पुराने की कीमत कम है।।

काले को सफेद कराने,
पहुंचे सारे मैखाने।
मैखाने भी लगी कतार,
हुआ पुराना खून बेकार।।

मैखाने में दुकान छुपी,
राजा पकड़ न ले कहीं।
खून बदलता चुपके चुपके,
मदिरा वापस नई मिले।।

बोतल चाहे आधी है,
मै का प्यासा आदी है।
काला जो सफेद बनादे,
उसकी चांदी चांदी है।।

जिसे खबर थी सीधे आड़े
मदिराबंदी है पखवाड़े।
छोटी बोतल आंगन छुपाई,
पेटी कहीं ठिकाने लगाई।।

राजा की है वाहवाई,
मै की आदत उसने भगाई।
प्रजा है बडी दिवानी,
मधु की है रीत पुरानी।।

किसे पता है कहीं किधर,
पीने वाले जाते जिधर।
राजा के जो साथी हैं,
वही सुरा के साकी हैं।।

Friday, 30 September 2016

Response to Uri

This the first time such operation has been acknowledged publicly. Perhaps the first with a scale of this nature too. One needs to see if this is employed more often. I was expecting that some skeptical defense journos would at least remain silent this time. But to my surprise without naming names at least two of these influential defence journos have publicly mocked this as placating jingoistic domestic audience and are not accepting the army version that many terrorist were hurt. I hope no operation details are further revealed even to placate the skeptics.

Some people have asked for footage to be revealed. But that hopefully wont be done. One hopes such actions are done more often not as response but actively to make wider ranges of LOC itself a sanitized zone.

I also hope such actions are not given an impression of being throttled by US approval and veto on this occasion or future.

People have been anticipating and wondering about Pakistani response. I suppose they will fall back to doing what they do. Which is more terror. We talk of isolating Pakistan in the world. But even if only India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan remain steadfast together for another decade perhaps some change can be brought about. India's isolation against Pakistani terror seems to be ending.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Response to an article by Lord Meghnath Desail "Being a Hindu"

This is a response to an article by Lord Meghnath Desail "Being a Hindu" that appeared in the Indian Express on 29/March/2014 The criticism of Indian society for some prejudices between communities is well known and Indian's themselves are at the fore front of highlighting it. It is also true that 'datil' communities have been and perhaps continue to be discriminated against today and is well acknowledged.

Having acknowledged that I would just like to point towards some misconceptions that we have. Starting with the question of jati(samaj) and varna. I would not use the term caste because it is a foreign term and does not really describe the social phenomenon that really exists.If we look at our selves from imported constructs then we will only see what the foreigner sees rather than knowing the nuances which our own perspective brings.

The first writer/thinker I would like to mention is late Dharampal. He is often described as a Gandhian. He wrote several books. Many of which are available for free in electronic format.In 'Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century: Some Contemporary European Accounts' he shows how Indian science and technology was at quite an advanced stage when the Europeans came to India. Several other books have been written on this subject for instance Mr C K Raju has written about how Indian Ganita was of much advanced stage than anything that Europe had and how is was transmitted to Europe via the Arabs and the Jesuits who came to Kerala. He gives example of Calculus which was clearly developed in India and was taken to Europe by the Jesuits. 

Aryabhatta who is credited with trigonometric discoveries, proposing that the earth is round, calculated circumference of earth and also proposed that earth revolves on its axis, was not a Brahmin as his name itself makes clear with the 'bhatt' suffix. He also wrote in Sanskrit. The point I am making without going into to much details here is that while it may be true that reciting of vedas was limited to Brahmins because of the discipline & practice that was required to learn the vedas from a very young age which then became a way of life; knowledge was not exclusive domain of the the Brahmins. The shipbuilders, engineers, surgeons, doctors, architects, sculptors, artists, mathematicians, astronomers, metallurgists, weavers(including technology) of ancient India were clearly not Brahmins. These are all fields of knowledge also and these were with the communities who used this knowledge for productive use. Pursuit of knowledge is and was the primary objective of our civilization that I am convinced of; through practical experience of our values and through reading the works of these authors like Dharmpal, C K Raju,Banwari, and many others. Sanskrit was not an exclusive domain of the Brahmins it should be clear because many of the books on practical sciences used by non Brahmins were also in Sanskrit.

Dharampal has written another book of note 'The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century'. Quoting from the records of the British civil servants he brings to our attention some facts which will forever change our perspective on what the British really did to our education. Noting the kind of education that existed in India before British intervention and before the heavy taxation that the British introduced on our economy he mentions the following in his book:-

William Adam in his first report observed that there exist about 1,00,000 village schools in Bengal and Bihar around the 1830s. Men like Thomas Munro observed in Madras  residency that ‘every village had a school. For areas of the newly extended Presidency of Bombay around 1820, senior officials like G.L. Prendergast noted ‘that there is hardly a village, great or small, throughout our territories, in which there is not at least one school, and in larger villages more.’34 Observations made by Dr G.W. Leitner in 1882 show that the spread of education in the Punjab around 1850 was of a similar extent.   

We had much higher penetration of education than even what existed in England at the time. Regarding the composition of students studying in these pre-British Indian schools this education was not limited to just the Brahmins and Vayshya. In fact the majority of students and also teachers were from other varna's and communities. This is from British records:

For example in tamil-speaking areas the twice-born ranged between 13% in South Arcot to some 23% in Madras, the Muslims form less than 3% in South Arcot and Chingleput to
10% in Salem, while the Soodras and the other castes ranged from about 70% in Salem and Tinnevelly to over 84% in South Arcot. 

I would now like to come to the question of Varna in our dharma shastra. Mr Desai has quoted the Bhagwata Gita. Many people have attacked Gita saying that is justifies the supposed 'caste system'. Although I believe that first there is no Caste(its and imported term) and second there is no System(no one brainstormed and made it). I have read the verses Mr Deais has mentioned. It clearly and repeatedly mentions Svabhava(ones own nature) and Gunah(three modes of material nature Tamas, Rajas, Satva) distinguishing Brahmanas, Khyatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras.

Gita in fact lays out a very difficult tasks and expectation of service to society for the Kshatriya and Brahmana by laying out the qualities needed in them like generosity, courage in battle, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance. We all know that Brahmins were the poorest in terms of wealth in our society. Knowledge and high standards of virtue being their only wealth. For Shudra question our society is much maligned. But where does the Gita say that Shudra are lost.It does say that one born with natural tendency of service is Shudra. Now one might say this work is better than the other but is it not the nature of any society(even the western model) today don't we value scientist, scholars, soldiers, entrepreneur etc. So why do we condemn the values of an ancient society for the ills of today. Gita in fact speaks of dignity of labour when it says one should work as per ones natural tendency which is better than imitating what is not your natural tendency. I don't see anything in Gita justifying a class structure that a Brahmin's son has to be a Brahmin and a Shudra's child has to be a Shudra. It says no such thing; that is just an interpretation that modern scholars have done either out of ignorance or deliberately to malign.

Dharmpal in his book Bharatiya Chitta, Manas va Kala gives an explanation of the hierarchy possibly came into being in our society as a result of more value being given to para-vidya (pursued by a Brahman) than to apara-vidya(pursued by a Sudra). Para is knowledge of the sacred and Apara is knowledge of the practical/mundane. I have heard other scholars maintain that there is no hierarchy between Para and Apara. Dharampal does mention that a hierarchy has been formed in our society pertaining to these vidyas and hence lower and higher status of the varnas has developed. 

Below explanation from his book is worth reproducing as is:-
The Purusha Sukta indeed states that the Sudras appeared from the feet of Brahman, the Vaisyas from the thighs, the Kshatriyas from the arms and the Brahmanas from the head. But this does not necessarily define a hierarchy between the Varnas. The Sukta is a statement of the identity of the microcosm and the macrocosm. It presents the world as an extension of the body of Brahman. In its cryptic Vedic style the Sukta informs us that the creation is a manifestation of Brahman, it is His extension, His play. The Sukta also probably recounts the variety of tasks that have to be performed in the world that Brahman creates. But nowhere in the Purusha Sukta is it said that some of these tasks, and consequently the performers of those tasks, are better than others. That the functions of the head are higher than those of the feet could only be a matter of a somewhat literal interpretation that came later. At another time such interpretations can even get reversed. After all it is only on his feet that a man stands securely on earth. It is only when the feet are stable that the head and hands play their parts. When the feet are not securely placed on the earth, nothing else remains secure either. Incidentally, the Purusha Sukta does not even imply that all four Varnas came into existence simultaneously at the beginning of creation. The Sukta does not give the story of creation and its unfolding; it only explains, through the analogy of the body of Brahman, an already manifest and differentiated Universe. In fact, as we have seen earlier, the Pauranic texts seem to suggest that at the beginning there was only one Varna, and it is only later as the need for newer and newer human capacities started arising that the Varnas divided, first into two and then into three and four.

Dharmapal also quotes from the puranas rishi Vedavyasa saying in exuberance 'blessed are the Shudra, blessed are the women because the Kaliyuga is the age of women and shudra.'

Finally I would like to come the reason which prompted Mr Desai to write this article. The RSS Awadh representative's statement about untouchability bias driving people to Christianity & Islam  in the context of his drive of making people aware that these biases should be removed. No doubt people have converted because of discrimination they have faced, that is not the only reason though and if we look at Ambedkar then he did not convert. He adopted Buddhist tradition but he did not convert out of Dharma; consciously knowing the dangers of such conversions to the integrity of our civilization. Dharma traditions are not exclusive you need not convert into only one tradition and be completely removed from the other. In Japan for instance people remain Buddhist and Shinto at the same time. Mazhabi traditions are exclusive, have a truth claim and consider other traditions as false. That perspective and monism gives them imperialistic tendencies. Other cultures are seen as inherently evil worthy of being removed and replaced with Mazhabi tradition. Their holy books also explicitly call out other traditions especially the practices of Dharma tradition as 'demonic'. This is factual. No such thing can be found in any of the Dharma texts, such hate does not exist in Dharma traditions, there is no proselytizing zeal either. This makes Dharma vulnerable to missionary propaganda since there is a rallying call in Mazhab and no such rallying call in other traditions which respect all ways a leading to truth.

Mazhabi tradition's fundamentalism is exploited by extremists all too often. The very real threat that Indian civilization faces today is from right wing western evangelist(baptist/ lutheran etc). They openly preach hate for Hindus and have a concerted aim of Christianizing India. JosuaProject.net, World Vision, India Gospel League, Samaritan's Purse, Harvest India and innumerable such churches and NGOs have joined hands in the this project. People like Billy Graham known as America's Pastor, his son & others like him have envisioned such projects which have a stated aim to 'demolish Hinduism' and bring true biblical God to 'satan's land'. These efforts are not to be taken lightly. Some people have also written about how US government is perhaps knowingly or unknowingly funding conversions in India.A report appeared in First post recently Uncle Sam funding conversion. Iain Buchanan in his book The Armies of God: Study of militant Christianity has written about this too. Here is his speech describing the result of his research at a university conference in Malaysia. The definition of religious freedom itself is skewed as Sankrant Sanu argues well in his article Re-imagininig Religious Freedom.

Hinduism is not able to respond to this challenge for multiple reasons.
1)  Primarily because it does not believe in proselytizing and does not bad mouth other traditions.
2) Finances being deployed by the global church are huge $50 billion of liquid assets at disposal as per Iain Buchanan.
3) Hindu temples are in government control with the funds being appropriated by the government and not spent on Dharma related activities.Estimated number is 4.5 Lakh all India with 40,000 in Tamil Nadu itself.
4) Dharma has suffered a degradation because of foreign invasion and rule.
5) Some of the clearly biased government policies like the hue and cry for Gharwapsi which is presumed to be forced and people are arrested charges slapped, while conversions of thousands goes on without any check even when they use clearly illegal practices like faith healing, exorcism, fraud, preaching children schools, making Hindu students studying history of Christianity and Christ in schools, bringing up Hindu children in orphanages as Christian even when their parents religion is clearly known. 

This list is long I will not go into this subject further. I would like to say in the end it is not just about the Jati and Varna and it is not merely about discrimination of certain communities. There is discrimination in Christians(closed congregation churches, separate Black/Hispanic/Indian churches,Dalit Christians even buried separately) and Muslims(Ashraf/Ajlaf, Saudi Muslim racism, Shia Sunni fight) also. That is no justification what so ever for religious conversion just because Mazhabi books direct the followers to convert others and bring an end of the world apocalypse once everyone is converted.

Matthew 24:14 

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Response to Mr Kancha Ilaiha on his views on Cow Slaughter

This is my response to an interview of Mr Kancha Ilaiha which appeared in Quartz.

http://qz.com/366659/history- says-most-hindus-never-had- any-beef-with-beef

1) It is definitely a cultural imposition— particularly on indigenous groups, such as tribals and Dalits. The question of cultural imposition on Muslims and Christians comes later.
Reply > Cultural value of saving life becomes cultural imperialism? How warped his thinking can be? True fact which we know is that by killing cows the invaders have deliberately undermined one of the cores values of our civilization. The question of calling vanvasis as tribal and calling dalit indigenous is all rehash of the Aryan invasion/immigration mindset. His understanding of history is wrong. The cultural imposition if at all is killing of cows which we have suffered.

2)  Ilaiah-ji speaks about history of Brahmins killing cows, food scarcity. He introduces stories about his own personal experiences
Reply> Concocted history about beef eating by Brahmins is complete nonsense. He is engaging in propaganda of some obscure, doubtful, fringe historical references when the overwhelming facts point otherwise. The vedic view as explained by Srila Prabhupada in an interview was that there are 7 mothers. Adi-mata(original mother), Guru-Patni, Brahman-Patni, Raja's patni, Dhratri(Nurse/Foster mother/wet nurse), Dhenu, Prtihvi. Cow is mother because we drink cows milk. Killing mother is sin. Is that difficult to understand in terms of cultural values? 
The history of massive famines and food scarcity I know of was during the British period when they increased the tax on land from the usual 15% to 75%+. That caused land to go out of production. Why he is insists on saying that 'Dalits' don't consider cow as mother too? All his assumptions rest on his theory that Brahmins are invading Aryans which is as flawed as Nazis conception of Aryans.

3) Muslims/Christians being consumers of beef. 
Reply> Today yes. Historically no. Dharampal had written a book on this. The figures he gave is that before the British perhaps 20000 cattle were killed in an year mostly during Eid. British were primarily responsible for killing cows in large number figure is 30000 per day. The book talks about "India-wide anti-kine-killing movement against the British, between 1880-1894"..  "many prominent Muslims as well as the Parsis and Sikhs actively participated in the movement. The fact that the movement was directed against the British and not against the Muslims, as commonly believed, was very clear to Queen Victoria and her high-ranking officers".

He speaks of choice as if there was no other food left to eat even for meat eater. More and more people realize that beef is bad for health and bad for the environment. It is also bad for our cultural value of not harming nature that provides us sustenance.

4) Shankaracharya developing idea of banning cow slaughter. Buddhists were beef eaters. Shankaracharya turned Brahmins to beef eaters first in south then in north.
Reply> What a concoction. His lying through his teeth. Japan a Buddhist country did not kill cows till 150 years ago when Americans imposed this culture of beef eating to them. The first recorded cow killing was done by American Counsel General Townsend Harris and his Dutch interpreter Hendrick Heusken at the Gyokusen-ji temple in 1856. Hendrick Heusken was later killed by a Samurai. Did Shankaracharya visit Japan? Earlier in the interview he said Buddha banned beef eating then he says Shankaracharya banned it and Buddhist used to eat. Contradictions in the same interview.

6) RSS turning beef into Hindu Muslim issue. South Indian Brahmins remaining culturally embedded in their families so practice untouchability.
Reply> Politics of protecting cows is politics of allowing civilizations values to be respected. Does it unite Hindus, perhaps it does just as Baba Grakhnath did and created the Gorakha community. But why are you after the poor cow? Attack Brahmins and a good argument made because "Brahmins are evil" as the mazhabi preachers like Francis Xavier and the conquering invaders propagated. 

7) Racism in killing buffalo and saving cows. Because buffalo is black animal.
Reply> Save us from his rants. There are no black cows? Are cows not brown? I cant argue on this. His statement is absurd. Killing animals up to buffalo was tolerated for meat eaters that is true but how many Hindus eat buffalo? Cow has a special place in our culture and represents mother earth also he does not get it. 

8) Cows came to India with Aryans.
Reply> His entire life is stuck on the Aryan invasion history. Harappan bull seals and figurines seem to have lost to him even with his AIT this statement does not match.

9) Converting Dalits to Hinduism.
Reply> His work engages in dividing Indian communities against each other. If his kind of people are going to set the discourse then there will be no harmony between communities in India. Perpetual victim hood that the term 'Dalit' creates already makes the task of creating harmony and removing discrimination difficult. He is converting 'Dalits' out of Dharma not the other way round.

10) Cows in rural economy. Sick/old cows if not killed rural economy will suffer.
Reply> When poor cannot take care and let the cow stray, even then the community feeds the cow. In villages and small towns this is the norm. Hindus don't always send cattle to slaughter houses they are stolen by cattle thieves who sell them to slaughter houses. As per national crimes records bureau 8000~ cattle stolen in 2013 &  81000~ stolen in 12 years before that combined. These are just the reported & recorded cases.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Varna Vyavastha explained by Dharmpal

Every Indian knows of the Varna Vyavastha. Today the educated Indians speak of it in terms of Caste.After reading about the Varna Vyavasta in a diagram of Purusha where Shudra are shown in the feet, I like most Indian's was confused why it was so. It is mostly interpreted to mean that some how the Shudra were considered lower. Indeed this is how most contemporary social scientist describe it and that is common perception. I first came to question it after reading the book "Ashwamedha"  by Subhash Kak who gives an explanation that Man is created in the image of the Purusha so each person has all 4 aspects in him.I also could not help but notice that mother earth and Shudra who work in production on earth(in an agricultural society or even otherwise) both are shown as coming from the feet of Purusha. Arthashastra also mentions that when any new area was to be settled, say a cleared forest then Shudra were the first to go and settle. So all this should change the way we look at Varna Vyavastha. But an interesting and perhaps quite complete explanation is found in Dharampal's "Bhartiya Chitta Manas Aur Kaal"

"The Purusha Sukta indeed states that the Sudras appeared from the feet of Brahman, the Vaisyas from the thighs, the Kshatriyas from the arms and the Brahmanas from the head. But this does not necessarily define a hierarchy between the Varnas. The Sukta is a statement of the identity of the microcosm and the macrocosm. It presents the world as an extension of the body of Brahman. In its cryptic Vedic style the Sukta informs us that the creation is a manifestation of Brahman, it is His extension, His play. The Sukta also probably recounts the variety of tasks that have to be performed in the world that Brahman creates. But nowhere in the Purusha Sukta is it said that some of these tasks, and consequently the performers of those tasks, are better than others. That the functions of the head are higher than those of the feet could only be a matter of a somewhat literal interpretation that came later. At another time such interpretations can even get reversed. After all it is only on his feet that a man stands securely on earth. It is only when the feet are stable that the head and hands play their parts. When the feet are not securely placed on the earth, nothing else remains secure either.

Incidentally, the Purusha Sukta does not even imply that all four Varnas came into existence simultaneously at the beginning of creation. The Sukta does not give the story of creation and its unfolding; it only explains, through the analogy of the body of Brahman, an already manifest and differentiated Universe. In fact, as we have seen earlier, the Pauranic texts seem to suggest that at the beginning there was only one Varna, and it is only later as the need for newer and newer human capacities started arising that the Varnas divided, first into two and then into three and four."

Obama's Religious Freedom

Barak Obama President of the United States had during his recent trip to India given Indians a lecture on upholding religious tolerance. He showed us article 25 of our own constitution. For those of us who thought this was a one off comment he repeated his "concern" in the so called National Prayer Breakfast which was started by a Mormon Evangelist Abraham Vereide. He said "Michelle and I returned from India -- an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity -- but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs -- acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji [sic], the person who helped to liberate that nation". He did not single out any one faith at least not explicitly. But if anyone wants to know what he really meant in these two speeches one needs to read this press release(Feb 6, 2015) by United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The press release after quoting Obama's two speeches goes on to mention this "The President’s concerns come at a time of increasing abuses against India’s minority religious communities.  Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have assaulted these communities and forced community members to convert.  In just the last three months, five churches were attacked in Delhi; Hindu nationalists reportedly forcibly converted Christians and Muslims; and a mob of more than 5,000 people attacked the majority-Muslim village of Azizpur, Bihar, killing three Muslims and setting about 25 houses on fire.  In addition, on February 5, police detained hundreds of Christians demonstrating against attacks on churches in New Delhi, including John Dayal, a human rights activist, who testified on April 4, 2014 before the Tom Lantos Commission on 'The Plight of Religious Minorities in India.'"

So while Obama has not singled out any religious community this press release by USCIR which is also incidentally headed by a Mormon Katrina Lantos Swett makes it clear what it was all about. American right wing churches which do not want any breaks to be brought about in their evangelist activities, do single out Hindus, who they intend to convert. Any resistance is pre-empted by pointing out incidents some of which may not even be true to weave a story which is used as persecution propaganda. Indians need to be aware of how the west is an active participant in the religious discord in our country. Barak Obama's lecture to India on religious freedom squarely equates it with freedom to evangelize which is the real concern not religious "Bhai Chara".

1) To know about what really happened in Azizpur read this.
2) About the assault and forced conversion by RSS I don't know where this story came from. I presume it refers to the so called 'Ghar Wapsi'. A typical report condemning 'Ghar Wapsi' is here. It says "Clearly, the force involved in conversions across the religious spectrum, need not be physical. It can be psychological, social, and as is often the case, economic."
3) Minority commission of UP report on the 50 so called 'Ghar Wapasi" was covered by India today here. It talks about "lured". Not that luring is in anyway more respectable. But if the commissions recommendation were to be implemented that would put so many evangelists churches in the dock.
4) John Dayal is a more or less discredited figure who appears regularly to testify against India in such forums.

Friday, 2 January 2015

New York Time's version of religious intolerance in India

Recently an editorial appeared in the NYT signed the Editorial Board.

Here is my response to it which I am sure wont make it to the readers letters section.

This is in reference to the recent editorial published in NY Times regarding the religious conversion controversy in India. While I find that it correctly mentions several facts about the recent events. It does not cover the whole picture.

Hinduism being a non proselytising religion is under constant assault by western fundamentalist Christian churches which have a stated goal to Christianize India.

Organizations like JoshuaProject, Worldvision, Harvest India and innumerable other missionary churches have in past and at present continue to use allurements like superstitious faith healing, cash, medical services, education etc to "Harvest Souls" & save "poor Indians" from the "darkness" of their "false gods" & "evil spirits". Billions of dollars are directed each year to India for this purpose. Recently a case was registered in Kashmir against a Christian pastor trying to convert Muslim youths in Kashmir by allurement.

Christian missionaries are known to come to India on tourist visas and illegally engage in proselytism of children in their schools.

Christian churches are also known to support terrorist organizations that target local Hindus. Killing of Swami Lakshmanananda in 2008 by left wing extremists supported by Christian organizations which resulted in Kandhamal riots in Orissa and the recent killings of 80 Hindu Vanvasis by NDFB terrorists in Assam are a few examples. One of the stated demands of Christian NDFB terrorists is to replace the traditional Devanagari script of Bodo language with Roman alphabets.

So the issue is not as straightforward as NYTimes seems to suggest, that the so called oppressed Hindus convert to other faiths under their own volition.

I hope in future your paper carries a more balanced story on the real facts on the ground and calls the american churches by name which play a part in generating discord in India through their unethical practices backed by loads of US dollars.

Monday, 13 October 2014

India an artificial construct?

Many people have commented in past on "fragility" of the Idea of Indian Nationhood, or looked at it as a "nation of nations" with various sub-nationalities living in India. Some even consider the British to be responsible for uniting India.

Was the Idea of nation hood born in Europe? At best we can say that the European Idea of nationhood was born in Europe certainly not the Indian Idea of nationhood. I am sure nobody will dispute that Indian Subcontinent is historically one civilization. If we look at pre-Islamic period then perhaps the geographic reach of Indian civilization was no less than from Afghanistan in the west to Indonesia in the east. The Idea of Bharat Vasha predates any foreign colonization of India and geographic extent was well understood to be from the mountains to the seas which pretty much covers the present territorial extent of India. Culturally India was united quite early in History. We have to consider the puranic references for this. Let me state a very common reference which is the story of Sati. When Shiva carried Sati's corpse on his shoulders around the world threatening to destroy the universe, Vishnu in order to save the universe from destruction cut the body of Sati into 51 pieces. Each location of the fallen piece is revered as a Shakti Sthal. Please look at the locations of the 51 Shakti Sthal. That is cultural geography of India. It covers entire subcontinent including Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Srilanka. The majority of these sites are of course in India. 

When Adi Shankara traveled across India debating Indian philosophy in 8th century AD he was obviously not prevented from entering at any of the "political" kingdoms from Kashmir to Kanyakumari nor was he ever considered an outsider preaching "local" population. He established the various maths across India and the 4 sacred Dhams in 4 directions. There is no question on the geographical extent of India. 

The British were also not the first to politically unite India. We anglicized Indians conveniently forget the local tradition of a "Chakravarti" emerging time and again to politically unite India which was already geographically, culturally and perhaps economically one. Alexander's invasion of India triggered the revival and establishment of a pan-India Chakravarti. Mauryan empire covered India from frontiers of Afghanistan to almost the deep south of the peninsula. Harsha's empire, Gupta empire,Prithvi Raj Chauhan's failed attempt, Mughal and Maratha empires politically united India much before the British. One must understand that political unity requires communication technology. Which nation in the world as large as India could have been politically one without such communication? 

I would like to submit that the last such political unity of India was achieved when the Integration of Indian states was undertaken in post partition India. Our constitution is the latest indigenous Chakravarti India has seen and serving and protecting this Chakravarti is every Indian's duty.

I wish public figures would shun this illogical Idea of India being an unnatural nation which ignore the achievements of Indian Civilization and culture going back several millennia.