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Paschim Banger Janya Prabuddha Sava
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Nicholson’s Untruths

Rajiv Malhotra

The hard evidence that cannot be ignored
Given the media’s mediocrity in blindly repeating what other journalists say (without reading the evidence), I want to list the hard evidence from Indra’s Net and let intelligent readers decide for themselves. Everyone I have showed this to, including academic scholars with no familiarity or interest in the specific subject matter, have told me that if one has this many references to Nicholson it would be ridiculous to shout ‘plagiarism’.

Note that most of the reference to his work are in chapter 8 between pages 157-170. The references after page 300 are located in the end notes.

At most they could claim that in a few instances the quotation marks were omitted, but there is no doubt that the author is referring to Nicholson’s work.

Indra’s Net has about 450 end notes, of which about 350 are references to various works by others. There is no intention to hide others’ works at all, in fact, quite the contrary: I am often chided for over-doing references. Nicholson cites far fewer references in any of his works.

Also, less than 3% of Indra’s Net references pertain to Nicholson, because he is relevant only to minor portions of the book. Hence, he is hardly supplying anything major.

Analysis of the facts
My conclusion is that I have pumped his ego by giving him too much importance. His book came into the limelight only after Indra’s Net referred to it. Although it had been out for a few years, only after Indra’s Net his publisher put out his interviews and promoted it heavily. Rather than being grateful, he made a u-turn once I explained that my next book is a critique of his PhD mentor, Sheldon Pollock. His MA was done under Wendy Doniger.

He is extremely critical of ‘Hindutva’, etc. He gladly accepted another award given by Uberoi Foundation, a very explicitly Hindutva organization. Ehen it comes to duping Hindus and taking their money, he has done well as a ‘good cop’. His ‘good cop’ facade that had fooled me has now come off under the false pretext of being a victim.

An arrogant allegation of distortion
Another allegation he makes is that where I disagree with his stance, it amounts to a distortion – as though I cannot give my position and must always agree with him. The specific instance is where he says Vijnanabhikshu was unifying Hinduism. I cite him with agreement. Then I add that Swami Vivekananda was also doing the same thing. Nicholson is angry that I say this of Vivekananda when he meant to say this only for Vijnanabhikshu. My statement on Vivekananda is my own and I am entitled to it.

My mistake in citing his substandard work
I decided to do as new edition of Indra’s Net in which I will remove all references to Nicholson. After reflecting further on his work, I realized that many Indian writers have said the same thing he says, and in greater detail. I am better off citing them instead of him. Also, his notion of ‘unity’ is a synthetic unity whereas mine is integral unity: these are my original concepts and explained in my book, Being Different. So rather than using an unreliable and contradictory source like Nicholson, I will bypass him entirely and explain the deeper integral unity of Hinduism based on Indian sources.

Further De-colonizing myself
Why do we like to cite western sources so much? Partly it’s a colonial habit to assume that the westerner must be more reliable. But in so many cases one finds the opposite: the westerners are better at language, style, appearance of polished presentation. But the work is superficial and often hides a bias underneath. Nevertheless, more publishers and media outlets get interested if a work cites many western sources. We must become self-conscious of this colonial mind set and change it.

There is another reason as well: When I go searching for research works on some specific topic, it is the western works that are predominantly available electronically and in local libraries. Often one has to hunt down an Indian work for weeks or months to get it. Often one does not even know about good Indian works because Indians are not as effective at promoting their works.

But with the help of Indian scholars like Vishal Agarwal and Shrinivas Tilak, I have been able to cite Indian works that had appeared long before Nicholson’s, and that are far deeper and more comprehensive than his work. In fact, it’s a shame that he ignores them or gives lip service when in fact he ought to cite them as heavily as he demands of me.

List of references to Nicholson
Following is the list of references to Nicholson, each item preceded by the page number in Indra’s Net.

Indra’s Net, 15:

In his excellent study of the pre-colonial coherence of Hinduism, titled Unifying Hinduism, Andrew Nicholson explains that prior to the medieval period there was no single way to define what ‘astika’ meant.

Indra’s Net, 65:

Hacker’s suppression of this material compromised his integrity as an objective scholar, as it misled readers into thinking his writings on Hinduism were objective evaluations when in fact they were, in Andrew Nicholson’s words, the work of a ‘Christian polemicist’. [i]

Indra’s Net, 157:

I agree with Nicholson that:

Modern historiographers of Indian philosophy have largely been blind to the numerous intertextually related definitions of the terms astika and nastika. This oversight is further evidence of our own credulity and overreliance on a handful of texts for our understanding of a complex situation in the history of ideas. [ii]

Indra’s Net, 158:

[Without quotation marks but see the end note where reference is given to Nicholson]: Later still, these six got further consolidated with a shared commitment to Vedic authority, by which they differentiated themselves from Jains and Buddhists. [iii]
Indra’s Net, 159-60:

Andrew Nicholson places the growing consolidation of Hindu ‘big tent’ unity in roughly the fourteenth to sixteenth century CE period. [iv] He shows that the categories of astika/nastika were fluid previously, but in this period they became solidified and hardened. He sees the medieval consolidators of contemporary Hinduism as analogous to European doxographers. A doxography is a compilation of multiple systems of thought which are examined for their interrelationships, and sometimes new classifications are proposed. It is like a survey of various philosophies from a particular point of view that is looking for relationships across various systems. Often the bias of the doxographer is expressed by the set of schools that he includes and the ones he excludes, and the criteria by which he ranks them. [v]

Nicholson goes into great detail to show that the writings and classifications by rival Indian schools changed during the medieval period, with many cross-borrowings and new alliances. [vi] He argues that this Indian genre, akin to European doxography, served as the means to cross-fertilize among traditions, thereby making each tradition more accessible to others.

Indra’s Net, 161-62:

Nicholson’s view is that the medieval scholars such as Vijnanabhikshu became the pathway for Western Indology. Nicholson writes how a new kind of unified view of Hinduism emerged:

Between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries CE, certain thinkers began to treat as a single whole the diverse philosophical teachings of the Upanishads, epics, Puranas, and the schools known retrospectively as the ‘six systems’ (darsana) of mainstream Hindu philosophy. The Indian and European thinkers in the nineteenth century who developed the term ‘Hinduism’ under the pressure of the new explanatory category of ‘world religions’ were influenced by these earlier philosophers and doxographers, primarily Vedantins, who had their own reasons for arguing the unity of Indian philosophical traditions. [vii]

Indra’s Net, 169-70:

Andrew Nicholson, whose work on the coherence and antiquity of Hinduism is the positive exception to many of these trends in scholarship, further explains this problem as follows:

In the west, our understanding of Indian philosophical schools (as the word darsana is generally translated) has been colored by our own history. The default model for the relationship between these schools is often unwittingly based on models derived from Western religious history: the hostilities between the three religions of the Book, the modern relationship of the various Christian denominations, or even the relation between orthodox and heterodox sects in early Christianity. [viii]

Nicholson is also concerned about making sure that Indian thinkers are studied as individuals and given their due, and not simply lumped together into frozen ‘schools’:

Once the theory of the British invention of almost everything in modern India has been properly debunked, we can look realistically at the ways that such thinkers creatively appropriated some Indian traditions and rejected others. This is not the only reason to study premodern India, but it is one of the most important. Sanskrit intellectual traditions should be approached not as a rarefied sphere of discourse hovering above everyday life and historical time but, rather, as a human practice arising in the messy and contingent economic, social, and political worlds that these intellectuals occupied. [ix]

Nicholson suggests that other models are available for Westerners to appreciate the distinction of each thinker, such as the one used in science. Different scientific disciplines operate in separate domains. They discover in parallel, and they continually try to reconcile their differences. But they are not mutual enemies. In the same manner, we can say that different Indian systems have focused on different domains: Mimamsa focuses on exegesis of Vedic ritual injunctions; Vedanta on the nature of Brahman; Nyaya on logical analysis; Vaisheshika on ontology; Yoga on the embodied human potential; and so on. Nicholson writes:

One of the important differences between the analytical terms darsana and vidya is that ‘sciences’ are not inherently at odds in the way that ‘philosophical schools’ are often depicted. Instead, they can represent different, and often complementary, branches of knowledge, much in the way that modern biology, chemistry, and physics are understood as complementary. [x]

Indra’s Net, 316:

Nicholson points out the huge borrowings made by Christianity: ‘Does this apply equally to the Christian theology’s illicit borrowing of the theological concepts of the immortal soul and the infinity of God from Greek philosophy? Such concepts are not found in Christianity in its pure, Semitic, pre-Hellenized form. The widespread tendency of ”claiming for one’s own what really belongs to another” is a primary means of change, growth, and innovation in all philosophical and theological traditions, not just in Hinduism.’ (p. 188)

Indra’s Net, 325:

Nicholson, 2010, p. 179: ‘”Believer” and “infidel”, though tempting, are also too fraught with Western connotations of right theological opinion (and the latter too closely associated with medieval struggles between Christians and Muslims). The terms “affirmer” and “denier” are better, since these are neutral with regard to the question of right opinion versus right practice. An affirmer (astika) might be one who “affirms the value of ritual” (Medhatithi), one who “affirms the existence of virtue and vice” (Manibhadra), one who “affirms the existence of another world after death” (the grammarians), or one who “affirms the Vedas as the source of ultimate truth” (Vijnanabhikshu Madhava, etc.). The typical translations for the terms astika and nastika, “orthodox” and “heterodox”, succeed to a certain extent in expressing the Sanskrit terms in question.’

Indra’s Net, 326:

Nicholson (2010) writes that ‘the sixteenth-century doxographer Madhusudana Sarasvati, argues that since all of the sages who founded the astika philosophical systems were omniscient, it follows that they all must have shared the same beliefs. The diversity of opinions expressed among these systems is only for the sake of its hearers, who are at different stages of understanding. … According to Madhusudana, the sages taught these various systems in order to keep people from a false attraction to the views of nastikas such as the Buddhists and Jainas.’ (p 9)

Indra’s Net, 328:

Examples of Indian doxographies named by Nicholson include the following: … [followed by a list of 11 lines not in quotation marks, but it is clear they refer to Nicholson]

Indra’s Net, 329:

Although Vivekananda was a passionate advocate of a Vedanta-Yoga philosophy and spirituality, he was not averse to drawing on elements of Western philosophy and metaphysics that were popular at his time. His predilection for Herbert Spencer and other Europeans of the time was to borrow English terminology in order to present his own philosophy more persuasively. He did so because his own philosophical tradition had been savaged by colonial and Orientalist polemics. (Nicholson 2010, pp. 65, 78)

Indra’s Net, 344-345:

This is a long end note that has Nicholson referenced in it by name 4 times; but the material is not in quotation marks.


i Nicholson, 2010, p. 188.

ii Nicholson, 2010, p. 175.

iii Nicholson, 2010, pp. 3, 5, 25.

iv [Malhotra’s comment: Though Nicholson is mentioned in main text, this end note backs up the statement by using Lorenzen’s work, because Nicholson’s work was inadequate] One may ask why this consolidation into modern Hinduism took place in the medieval period. Some scholars have theorized that the arrival of Islam might have led to a coalescing of various Hindu streams into closer unities than before. It has been surmised that the attempts by Akbar and then Dara Shikoh to synthesize Hinduism and Islam into one hybrid might have been seen threatening Hindu digestion into a subset of Islam. This threat could have been a factor in this trend to bring many nastika outsiders into the tent as astika insiders. Regardless of the causes for this, there is ample evidence to suggest that multiple movements began to organize diverse Hindu schools into a common framework or organizing principle. Each of these rival approaches had its own idea of the metaphysical system in which it was at the highest point in the hierarchy, with the rest located in lower positions in terms of validity and importance, but the point here is that highly expansive unities were being constructed. Another scholar espousing this thesis of the development of an ‘insider’ sense of Hinduism as a response to Islam is David Lorenzen. He notes that between 1200 and 1500, the Hindu rivalry with Muslims created a new self-consciousness of a unified Hindu identity. Lorenzen draws his evidence from medieval literature, including the poetry of Eknath, Anantadas, Kabir and Vidyapati, and argues that the difference between Hinduism and Islam was emphasized in their writings. This emphasis showed the growth of an implicit notion of Hindu selfhood that differed from Islam. For instance, many bhakti poets contrasted Hindu ideas that God exists in all things, living and not living, with Islam’s insistence on banning this as idolatry. Lorenzen concludes: ‘The evidence instead suggests that a Hindu religion theologically and devotionally grounded in texts such as the Bhagavad-Gita, the Puranas, and philosophical commentaries on the six darsanas, gradually acquired a much sharper self-conscious identity through the rivalry between Muslims and Hindus in the period between 1200 and 1500, and was firmly established long before 1800.’ (Lorenzen, 2005, p. 53)

v [Malhotra’s comment: The following End note is my reflection on the point made in the main text.] This method of writing is common among historians of ancient civilizations, especially when they deal with works that have become extinct, and hence there is a need to fill in the blanks with some degree of invention. For example, Plato’s book on Socrates gives the only information available today on an earlier philosopher called Anaxagoras. The same is true of the Charvakas in India: very little of their own work survives and it is only through third-party critiques that we can reconstruct what the Charvakas were thinking. In a sense, most of the known ancient history of the world is of this kind, because little is based on direct accounts written at the time.

vi Examples of Indian doxographies named by Nicholson include the following… [Malhotra’s comment: An 11-line list from Nicholson is stated, but without quotation marks because it is a summary of his text. Nevertheless, the reference to his work is clear right at the beginning of the end note as indicated above.]

vii Nicholson, 2010, p. 2.

viii Nicholson, 2010, p. 13.

ix Nicholson, 2010, p. 18.

x Nicholson, 2010, p. 163.

Postscript: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that Andrew Nicholson had been given an award by the Hindu American Foundation. That sentence has now been removed.


Lessons Learned from Journalism

Bikash C. Paul

Bikash C. Paul has been a Journalist for many leading media brands in India including top channels like NDTV, ETV, News X and Times Now. Starting his career in mass media as a Reporter twenty-two years ago he gradually moved to back room news operation, shaping up agenda of top English channels in the country. As one of the top journalists in the current media scene, he has seen many phenomenal stories taking shape and has worked on many important national scoops. An expert in content management and news analysis, Bikash has many valuable lessons to share about media and journalism.

You have had a long association with media as a journalist and as an editor. Please share the lessons you have learned from this profession.

The greatest learning experience has been, of course, to see, feel and understand the evolution of Indian media through these two decades. It’s mind-boggling to learn the changing complexion of Indian media….its emergence from the shadow of traditional print and wire to TV, on-line and convergence. It’s fascinating to observe how the media has been shaped up infusing fresh outlook in content generation and its presentation; it’s interesting to find how a whole new generation of editors dared to challenge the status quo, exploring uncharted areas in journalism. Undoubtedly, it has been an enriching experience to be an active participant of every ups and downs of this roller-coaster journey.

No other country in the world has so many varied hues of journalism….it has a robust regional news market catering to the local needs; it has an extremely aggressive Hindi news space which has its own unique way presenting news to the masses; it has a few ‘elite’ English channels that had no other option but to shed its upmarket tag to grab shares from regional and Hindi channels.  As a backroom news manager for the past several years in top TV channels, my job has been to understand, interpret and act to the need of audience. Creation of new forms of storytelling, conceptualizing contemporary content and putting it on air for the audience has been the greatest challenge for me.

On a lighter vein….journalism taught me how to work 24 hours, even sometime without any break. It taught me how to work in a tight deadline skipping many lunches and dinners. It taught me how to miss social gatherings, company of family and friends. It taught me how to sneak into home after midnightyear after year. It taught to twist a story to fit the editor’s whims even sometime distorting facts here and there. It taught how to rub shoulder with bigwigs and feel myself too a big shot carrying an inflated ego!

You have a passion for political and economic journalism. What lessons have you learned here?

Governance had been my key area of functioning as a reporter.  With the launch of economic reform in 1991, however, the governance in India changed forever. Politics and economy mixed in such a manner that it brought a paradigm shift in the thinking process of all stakeholders, government officials, political parties and media.The initial era of reforms had taught us to analyze public policies through the prism of political-economy. The understanding is still valid asno political party can ignore the linkages between public policy and economy in today’s globalizing world.

As a journalist, you must have seen thousands of headlines, making news and history. What was the most pivotal moment of your career as a journalist and an editor and the lessons learned from it?

There are many and a few did make their places in the history. Sample these: Babri Masjid demolition that I covered for a leading Pakistani newspaper; coverage of Parliament attack when I myself was holed up in the mess inside; assassination of Nepal’s King Birendra and his family; Indo-Pak Agra summit between Vajpayee and Musharraf just after Kargil War and Advani’s “Bharat Uday Yatra” in the run-up to general elections in 2004.

It had been terribly a daunting task to cover Babri demolition and subsequent riots for Pak media from the epicenter. I was then a ‘Correspondent’ for Pakistan’s leading daily The News International in its Delhi bureau. For me, it was a great challenge to present a factual reporting without sounding biased.  I precisely did that. However, my dispatch used to be grossly changed in the desk in Islamabad. Worth mentioning here the eight-column banner headline on the demolition next day: “Babri Masjid reduced to rubble in ‘secular’ India”!

Terror reared its ugly head in Parliament premises in a calm morning in 2001. The House had a brief adjournment….me and NDTV’s Divya Malik Lahiri along with late Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley were enjoying a few relaxed moments in Mahajan’s chamber. Suddenly we heard gunshots and all rushed to the lobby. We found frantic activity in the lobby with Parliament security personnel, SPG running helter-skelter. We were told “terror strikes Indian Parliament”and the rest was all history! The next few hours were literally a face to face encounter with death.

The assassination of king Birendra and nine others in the royal family of Nepal was the bloodiest mass murders of royals in recent history. On a Saturday morning, Nepal woke up to unbelievable news of the massacre that decimated an entire line of the Shah dynasty that had ruled the Himalayan Kingdom for 233 years.The nation refused to accept that King Birendra (who was not only a royal figurehead but also revered as the living incarnation of Vishnu) was murdered by his own son Prince Dipendra. “Shocking” must be an understatement, Nepal exploded in utter frustration, confusion and overwhelming grief and anger. Conspiracy theories abounded and the simmering rage below the surface turned violent in major towns with spontaneous outbursts demanding the death of ‘real murderers’. The streets turned to battlefields with burning tires, stones, overturned cars, uprooted trees, attacks on Indian journalists and direct clashes with security forces, killing many. It was the time of hardcore reporting, sometimes even defying curfews till midnight.

The 7-km-long funeral procession–from the Army Hospital to the crematorium on the bank of Bagmati river–was a very public farewell! Disconcerting, painful and a terribly emotive journey! It seemed as though the entire population of Nepal had lined up shoulder to shoulder to bid farewell to their beloved royal family. People armed with bouquets and prayer scarfs wailed in grief…flowerers rained down from every nook and corner on the way. As the flames leapt higher and higher engulfing the bodies….it started drizzling. A TV commentator remarked….even the God was crying. I too cried…forgetting the very sense of ‘objectivity’ in journalism.

The Indo-Pak Agra summit took place in the backdrop of simmering uneasiness between the two countries following the Kargil War. While for Atal Behari Vajpayee, the summit was an apt manifestation of his artful diplomacy and statesmanship, for President Pervez Musharraf it was more of a domestic compulsion ensuring his one-upmanship back home. The high-profile summit was surcharged with hype, melodramatic ups and downs and unprecedented media ‘plants’ from both the sides. The most dramatic moment was when India rejected an ‘almost-signed’ joint declaration at the last moment and a frustrated Musharraf terming it as a ‘handiwork of hawks’ in Vajpayee government. Musharraf had to go back empty-handed…but we, the journalists, learned many valuable lessons about political and diplomatic maneuvering that takes place at a summit level.

Advani’s “Bharat Uday Yatra”, spanning across almost 8000 km and 16 states in the run up to 2004 general election,  was another learning experience. I would remember the Yatra for two reasons : (a) How Advani tried to shade his pro-Hindutva image, making a desperate bid to ‘re-position’ himself so that he is acceptable to Muslims. (b) Politicians and journalists alike were sure of NDA’s victory riding the wave of ‘India Shining’ slogan. The overwhelming public response to Advani’s Yatra strengthened our belief of another term for Vajpayee.  But the huge gatherings proved to be deceptive and misleading. We all failed to understand the underlying resentment in public mind. And important lessons learned here was never to take electorates for granted.

You have worked closely with many media stalwarts like Dr. Prannoy Roy, Barkha Dutt, Arnab Goswami and Jehangir Pocha.  Any notable experience or lessons learned from them?

Of course, Dr Prannoy Roy stands apart…a great soul, a perfect gentleman, a great teacher and most crucially an immense contributor to Indian journalism. I must say Dr Roy is a rare breed, who believes in quality journalism based on facts devoid of sensationalism, right information with lots of social obligation. He taught us that despite the shifting landscape of journalism, the talent, tenacity and passion to do meaningful work is ever-present. “Do that….and you will never be out of place”, Dr Roy once told me.

I have seen very few journalists as inhibition-free as Barkha. As a boss, Barkha was non-interfering and a driving force for quality work. Her tenacity and passion to do something big is quite infectious. I can vividly remember one incident. I was then a Special Correspondent in ETV. Barkha used to report for NDTV. On a chilly afternoon, we all were waiting outside Palam Technical Area in New Delhi as the then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh was to fly to Kandhahar with four Pak terrorists who were being released in exchange of Indian hostages of IC-814.  While we all wanted to grab the footage of the historic moment, Barkha had a different plan. She wanted to be a part of Jaswant Singh’s entourage to Afghanistan! A relentless persuasion and argument with the MEA officials followed, obviously in vain. But her perseverance to achieve an impossible task was remarkable!

Arnab Goswami is a dreamer. He dreamt of making Times Now number one channel in the country….and he has done so. Arnab’s passion and fierce conviction whatever he does—right or wrong—is unmatched. Arnab bulldozed many age-old concepts in TV journalism….he has narrowed down the differences between English and Hindi channels. His managerial style is of one-upmanship and it broke all set standards inside the newsroom. I was a part of his launch team and worked almost 17-18 hours a day even when the channel was not on-air. In his lexicon, there is nothing called breathing space….he himself does not take it, nor does he give it to anybody. Arnab experiments everyday almost with all stories in its treatment, writing style etc. He takes risks even when he knows that he may be wrong. Arnab inspired me to push my journalism further.

I have lost a mentor, a great story-teller with impeccable English, Jehangir Pocha few weeks back. I worked with him for almost five years…closely. He had nurtured me, polished me and most crucially tolerated me with a sense of great affection and indulgence. His knowledge in business journalism was unmatched in the industry. It was he, who helped me emerge as a news manager with multi-tasking skills…from strategic planning to building great team. Jehangir used to tell me ”Journalism is at a crucial stage. The opportunities are endless given the growing capabilities of digital media. Tap it.”

In your experience what was the best scoop that you worked on and the lessons learned from it?

My national scoop on Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee report on defence purchases during Kargil War was damningly critical about the Union Defense Ministry and its Minister George Fernandes, for stonewalling documents from the House body. The revelation created massive row in Parliament day after day, leading to an opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion against the Vajpayee Government.

Another national exclusive….how fake stamp scam-fame Abdul Karim Telgi was patronized by the then Karnataka minister Roshan Baig and his brother Rehan Baig. I filed a document-based story that was aired in ETV Kannada as a campaign forcing Roshan to resign from the state ministry and Rehan had to surrender to police following a FIR.

Any lessons that you want to share with wannabe journalists?

I have often encountered many peculiar situations. Many aspiring journalists have come to me for two specific kinds of jobs…reporting and anchoring. Sadly, many seem to have glamour as their main criteria to be in the profession. This is a dangerous trend and I would advice wannabe journalists to get rid of such inhibitions, as journalism is certainly way beyond all this. Explore other avenues and let passion for quality and work be your hallmark.

If you can travel by time, what lessons would you share with your younger self?

I wish I had made less mistakes. I wish I had broken more national scoops with real impact….wish I would have less emotional in professional relationship and most crucially, wish I would have made a balance between my work and family life. Given a chance I would have followed Ratan Tata’s philosophy, “Do we really need to get so worked up? It’s ok. Bunk few classes, score low in couple of papers, take leave from work, fall in love, fight a little with your spouse…it’s ok. We are people, not programmed devices. Don’t be so serious, enjoy life as it comes.”



Dilip D’Souza

Writing about mathematics and its practitioners is a double-edged sword. I can and do look forward to the delights that glimpses of esoteric mathematics afford a dabbler like me. Yet even with glimpses, I can and do sink quickly into the often dizzy feeling that I’m entirely beyond my level of competence.

Really no way around that sword, so I will leave it there.

When I set out to “profile” some outstanding young Indian mathematicians, I started by writing to some (older) mathematician friends, asking for names. This gave me a shortlist. I sent messages to everyone on it asking if they would let me write about them, and to tell me a little bit about their work and interests. A few did not reply, a few others declined. (One of my friends remarked that some of the folks he had suggested had “somewhat austere views on publicity in the media”.)

But others wrote back, and this is the result. As they will themselves agree, this is by no means a definitive list, not even in the areas of mathematics it covers (number theorists are disproportionately present, as are modular forms, and so on). This introduction to these six people is instead meant to give you just a taste of the work and personalities of some bright, thoughtful Indians.

And oh yes, they happen to be mathematicians.

So, with no further ado:

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Soumya Das (33), Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

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Possibly one of the least-known and yet most charming characteristics of mathematicians is their search for beauty in their work. It can be hard for a non-mathematician to understand why some apparently obscure and opaque collection of text, symbols and concepts qualifies as “beautiful”, or “elegant”, or even “nice”. Yet you will often see such adjectives used.

And certainly, you will see them used in discussions of the field in which Soumya Das works—modular forms. Consider the terms I found in just five minutes reading about them: “enchanting”, “neat”, “beautiful”, “nice”, “spectacular” “unreal”, “shiny”, “mysterious”. I get the feeling one or two of these have specific mathematical meaning, but then that itself tells a story. (One page also had these lines: “Why are modular forms interesting? We don’t quite know… that’s why they are so interesting!”)

And Das’s own passion for them comes through in the phrases he used in his mail to me: “some very basic questions that have intrigued me”, “favourite aspect of my work”, “interesting objects… worth studying”.

So, what are these interesting objects? Part of number theory, modular forms are certain carefully-defined mathematical functions with wide uses. While they are hard to explain in a space like this, here’s one way of getting a little closer to understanding their use.

One of the oldest problems in mathematics concerns partitioning a number—splitting it into parts that add up to the whole. Imagine, for example, that you are a teacher of a small class and you want to assign projects to your students. They are not all equally bright or diligent, so you probably want to put some kids in teams and have others work alone. In general, you want to know how many ways there are to divide up, or partition, your class—and with that understood, how many projects you need to have ready.

So, if you have four kids, you have these partitioning options: 4 itself (i.e., one part that is really the whole), 3 + 1, 2 + 2, 2 + 1 + 1, and 1 + 1 + 1 + 1. That’s 5 possibilities, which is to say, there are 5 partitions of the number 4. The more the students, the greater the number of partitions, and so the harder it is to simply enumerate them. (After all, my school class of 24 can be partitioned in no less than 1,575 ways, and had we been 100, we would have had 190,569,292 ways.) So, naturally, mathematicians search for formulae, or functions, to do such calculations. And as Das told me, such functions are “closely related to a modular form”.

The remarkable Srinavasa Ramanujan was interested in these themes too. For example, he proved that the number of partitions of every fifth number starting from 4—i.e., 9, 14, 19, 24, and so on—was divisible by 5. He had similar results for 7 and 11 too. And the proof that certain mathematical objects, called elliptic curves, are really just disguised modular forms was a major stepping stone for Andrew Wiles. In 1995, of course, Wiles proved a problem that had bedevilled mathematicians for several hundred years: Fermat’s Last Theorem.

Das’ research seeks to answer various questions in this field. At the Indian Institute of Science, he can regularly be found playing table tennis—that is, when he takes time away from caring for his newborn son. In the way that small things tell you a lot, it seems just right to me that Das’ Google Plus profile picture features Tintin. That spirit of fearlessly venturing into the unknown that Tintin is known for is no doubt one reason that the Indian National Science Academy awarded Das their Young Scientist Medal in 2014.

One of his papers says this: “We prove that, under suitable conditions, certain Siegel Poincaré series of exponential type of even integer weight and degree 2 do not vanish identically. We also find estimates for twisted Kloosterman sums and Salié sums in all generality.”

No, I don’t understand. But in those lines, there’s almost poetry. Even beautiful poetry.

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Kaneenika Sinha (34), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune

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Ninety-nine years ago, Ramanujan published a paper in a Cambridge University journal. It had the deceptively innocuous title On Certain Arithmetical Functions, and it caused waves then that still resonate. In the paper, Ramanujan, with the mathematical ease he was known for, analysed a particular function that—I am hardly ashamed to admit—I still don’t fully comprehend. But others did. In 1927, his Cambridge colleague and mentor G.H. Hardy wrote of this function that it “is important in the theory of the representation of a number as a sum of 24 squares”.

Here’s what’s delightful about mathematics: I bet you, like me, didn’t even know there was a theory of the representation of a number as a sum of 24 squares, much less that at least two major mathematicians of the 20th century spent time studying it. But that paper greatly influenced number theory. And that function, arguably, ended up shaping Kaneenika Sinha’s research.

Ramanujan proposed three conjectures based on this one function, one of which wasn’t proved until 1974. But the intervening decades saw the birth and expansion of a whole new area of mathematical interest, modular forms. Ramanujan’s conjectures can be understood as special cases of some facets of modular forms, and Sinha’s work focuses on those. It involves asking questions about aspects of irrational numbers, meaning numbers (like pi) that cannot be expressed as a regular fraction (like 3/4). In particular, if you manipulate irrational numbers in particular ways, you end up with numbers between 0 and 1. But are they bunched around 0? 1? Somewhere else? Or are they evenly distributed? In another famous 1916 paper, German mathematician Hermann Weyl asked some more refined questions about this, laying the ground for the theory of uniform distribution. By her own admission, these two seminal papers from nearly a century ago have greatly influenced Sinha’s research.

The questions they ask are not just exercises in pie-in-the-sky futility, nor mere number manipulations. As Sinha points out, what we learn from those irrational numbers is “connected to deep and beautiful facets of various other areas of mathematics”. What’s more, it has profound implications for quantum physics. Grasping for at least a flavour of what she does, I began to understand why a mathematician friend wrote to me that Sinha is “well regarded in her work”.

But Sinha’s interests stretch beyond mathematics as well. For two years, she used to blog anonymously, writing in detail about her search for an academic position in India, and then about her life at the institute she joined, IISER Kolkata. In 2013, she gave up the anonymity, though she still posts regularly. Surprisingly, there is nearly no mathematics in the blog. Instead, she muses about student supervision, collaborators, the Booker Prize-winning novel she is reading, moving from IISER Kolkata to IISER Pune, a conversation with her father, parenting and plenty more. It’s a startlingly introspective, always honest blog, one that offers a rare glimpse into the academic life in this country.

One post, from April this year, is about running into a relative (“who wrote motivational psychology books”). He says to her: “I don’t understand your job. Do you study mathematics for the sake of beauty or as a duty?”

Sinha was flummoxed by the question and remains so even now. She writes: “I am still not sure I have an adequate answer. Sure, it is beauty that attracts many to science, but is it entirely what keeps one on it, day after day, year after year?”

A question worth asking, really. It’s easy for a layman like me to talk about beauty in mathematics and earn brownie points for doing so with readers and mathematicians alike. After all, I’m not doing the hard work that produces the beauty.

But do professional mathematicians think about it all the time?

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U.K. Anandavardhanan (39), Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

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U.K. Anandavardhanan is the only person here whom I have actually met. I first got to know him several years ago, but not as a mathematician. He was the man behind a thoughtful, erudite blog on subjects ranging from politics to literature, with the occasional mathematical diversion thrown in. Intrigued, I wrote to him and we started corresponding, then worked together for a while on a collaborative blog. It was also Anand who first introduced me to Sudoku. In those days, he was a post-doctoral scholar at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. He has since moved to IIT Bombay as a professor.

Anand’s mathematical interests lie in number theory, under the broad rubric of what’s now known as the Langlands programme. In the 1960s, Robert Langlands proposed an overarching theory, or framework, for mathematics. It linked fields—number theory, geometry and more—that until then were considered unrelated. This was really a new way to look at these fields—for that matter, at mathematics itself—and as invariably happens with a change in perspective, it offered new insight into old problems. Perhaps the most celebrated triumph of the Langlands programme was Andrew Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

Anand particularly seeks to understand the behaviour of mathematical objects called groups. Think of a group as a set of objects, along with an operation that combines two or more of those objects to form another member of the set. For example, take the set of all books published by authors from Telangana. Suppose you then picked out all the works by a particular author and put them together as an anthology, and you do this for every author represented. The anthologies are, by definition, also in the set. So these books, along with this one operation, form a group.

Mathematically, of course, groups are more precisely defined. But think of the set of all integers, and the operation of addition: there’s a group. The set {1, -1} and the operation of multiplication: another group.

So, why study groups? One major area where they are useful is in cross-checking transmitted data—like a credit-card transaction or an online college application. Groups are useful in pinpointing errors in transmission, and even correcting them.

Anand focuses on ways to represent groups—itself a long-studied field of mathematics. Such representations make it possible to look at problems related to groups through other mathematical lenses that offer new insights. The great mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss struggled with one aspect of all this for four years. When, in 1805, he finally found the proof he was looking for, he wrote to a friend that “as lightning strikes [so] was the puzzle solved”.

Some of Anand’s work builds on Gauss’ famous result. It has already brought him recognition—he has won Young Scientist awards from both The National Academy of Sciences, India, and the Indian National Science Academy; INSA has also made him one of the founding members of the National Young Academy of Science.

But something else about Anand is even more remarkable. “He is also a great teacher”, another mathematician friend told me, “[which] is unusual for a young mathematician”. And one of his students, evaluating Anand, wrote, “I can scarcely remember a moment [in his classes] when I felt disinterested, or even bored.”

No wonder IIT Bombay gave him their Excellence in Teaching award in 2010. Knowing him as I do, I suspect it is the prize he is proudest of winning.

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Amritanshu Prasad (40), Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai

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Amritanshu Prasad tried to explain his research interests to me via, of all things, necklaces. Let’s say you have a supply of beads of three different colours—red, blue and green—and you want to make a necklace with five beads. How many possible necklaces are there to be made?

At first glance, this is a classic problem in basic combinatorics, which many college students learn early on. For each of the five bead positions in the necklace, there are three possible colours. So you would think you can make 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 3^5 = 243 different necklaces.

But remember that this is a necklace, therefore circular. This means that the bead pattern “rgbbg” is the same as “bgrgb”, by virtue of moving the last two beads around the string. Meaning, “rgbbg” can be trivially transformed into “bgrgb” without breaking the necklace. So, those two are identical. However, “rgbbg” is not the same as “gbrgb”—because there’s no way to transform one into the other without breaking and restringing. Thus “rgbbg” is a different necklace from “gbrgb”.

As you can tell, 243 is clearly too many necklaces. The correct answer is given by a mathematical result known as the orbit counting theorem, and it is 51.

Knowing how to accurately count such structures is important in chemistry, for example, because a necklace is a good way to think of the molecular structures of certain compounds. Similarly, a double helix is a good descriptor of a DNA molecule. So, we might want to know how many compounds can be formed with the same atoms, moving them around much as we do the beads. Or, with DNA, how proteins fit on the double helix can decide how tall you are, or what colour eyes you have. And there might well be other constraints—some atoms or proteins may not take well to being juxtaposed with others, for example.

One of Prasad’s research interests is how such constraints affect the counting. He’s also interested in symmetries in such objects, meaning transformations that make no difference to the structure. There are ways to represent such symmetries as mathematical groups—the same kinds of mathematical structures that Anandavardhanan is interested in—and that kind of representation, it turns out, can help chemists understand the properties of those compounds.

It also turns out Prasad and I share an admiration for a man I once wrote about for Mint (“The choices we make”)—V. Krishnamurthy, who taught me combinatorics at Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani. Prasad has not met VK, but treasures his books. He even shared with me a slide presentation—with Tamil subtitles, no less—that draws on VK’s Culture, Excitement and Relevance of Mathematics. Titled “Counting and Symmetry”, it starts with the necklace example and moves from there to symmetries and their implications for chemical compounds—and all in terms that a non-mathematician like me can grasp.

His work, another mathematician told me, “is highly regarded”. But his ability to explain it to layfolk is itself worth regarding highly.

Beyond research, Prasad also participates actively in his Institute’s outreach programmes, speaking to high-school students about different mathematical ideas. One of these lectures explained the ancient Greek master Euclid’s method to find the greatest common divisor of two numbers, involving two sticks of different sizes. This is interesting not just because it’s a fresh approach to a concept that so many kids agonize over, but also because Prasad takes it further, into a discussion of irrational numbers. For few things demystify mathematics so much as when you draw links between apparently disparate ideas. Another lecture was about the so-called Platonic solids. Here, he showed his audience how to use origami to make models of these five objects.

In fact, Prasad has a tremendous enthusiasm for origami, particularly as a tool for teaching mathematics to children. He told me he believes all mathematicians—maybe even all humans—can benefit from learning it.

A mathematician learning and teaching Japanese paper-folding techniques—who would have thought it?

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Ritabrata Munshi (38), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai

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There’s a million-dollar reward (the Clay Millennium Prize) if you can solve the Riemann Hypothesis. It suggests that the real part of the non-trivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function is always 1/2. If you are anything like me, you are looking for a substantial reward for even comprehending what that means. In any case, mathematicians are interested in the Riemann Hypothesis because it tells us things about prime numbers. If you want to know how many prime numbers there

are below a million, or a billion, or any given number—and you don’t care to enumerate them, the Riemann Hypothesis is your friend.

And this has connections to Ritabrata Munshi’s research interests. He works with L-functions, which can be thought of as generalizations of the Riemann zeta function. If the Riemann Hypothesis considers the places where the zeta function becomes zero, Munshi is interested in the conjecture that such functions don’t take large values anyway. In fact, a Finnish mathematician called Ernst Lindelöf suggested that the values are, says Munshi, “quite small”.

To an outsider, what’s interesting about this area of mathematics is that it is a veritable nest of conjecture and hypothesis. Meaning, there’s plenty in here that remains to be proved, and thus plenty of material to excite mathematicians. Lindelöf’s hypothesis actually goes further than “quite small”: it says a particular function’s value is precisely zero. But nobody has managed to prove that yet, and that’s typical for L-function theory.

I realize this is getting somewhat opaque, but there’s an interesting history here. If Lindelöf’s hypothesis remains unproved, we do know from some other work that that function’s value is no more than 1/4. Around 1910, G.H. Hardy and J.E. Littlewood managed to lower that limit to 1/6, or about 0.166667. Since then, a series of mathematicians have taken it steadily lower. Last year, Jean Bourgain nailed it at 53/342, or about 0.154907.

If you are looking for a quick demonstration of how difficult mathematics can be, I might offer you this nugget: the work of several diligent mathematicians has taken that Lindelöf limit all the way from 0.166667 to 0.154907. A 7% drop in a century of hard work, and that in pursuit of the really difficult task—proving that it is actually zero. Talk about progress.

Munshi told me that making even more progress with L-functions is—understatement alert coming up—“a challenging problem as the well-known methods do not work”. I like to think of that in the context of the other things he told me about himself. He was a “late starter” as a child, he said, and faced difficulties learning languages. But he was always good at mathematics and physics. Ramanujan and Albert Einstein were his heroes. By the end of high school, he had become fascinated by analytic number theory. And from an early age, he also said, he worked out his own style of doing mathematics.

For those reasons, I tend to believe Munshi when he says he thinks he has a new approach to the L-function problem “which provides the only breakthroughs”. His mathematical peers think so as well: one described his work to me as “really outstanding”.

Obviously, I’m incompetent to judge where all this will lead. But I would like to place it on record: if you win that Clay Millennium Prize for solving the Riemann Hypothesis, Munshi, I’m your friend.

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Nikhil Srivastava (31), University of California, Berkeley

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In an earlier life as a computer scientist, I worked with three others building a system we called PlaneText. It allowed you to link documents and use those links to leap from one to another: yes, a precursor to the hypertext of today’s World Wide Web. My part of the project was a software program that, once you created a network of linked documents, would draw you a picture of that network. That made it easier to visualize what you had done. Of course, we were only dealing with tiny networks then—I shudder at the prospect of setting my creation to work on the immense tangle that is today’s Web. I mean, it would make no sense to even try that.

But memories of that project came flooding back as I learned about Nikhil Srivastava’s work. Given a network—one we created with PlaneText, or a roadmap of a large city—there are various questions to ask about it. What is the shortest distance between any two nodes? How many links are redundant? If you want to visit every node, can you do it without repeating a node, and what’s the minimum distance you must travel?

Some of these are hard questions that mathematicians and computer scientists have grappled with for years. This is partly because networks are generally densely connected, and therefore algorithms designed to answer these questions can take very long indeed to run their course. But Srivastava has been working for a while on what’s known as “sparsification”. That is, he searches for a less dense (sparser) approximation to a given network. He uses that to get an approximate, but relatively accurate, answer to those questions that is still adequate for most purposes. The best approximations are known as—that genius yet again!—Ramanujan graphs.

You can think of all kinds of applications for sparsification. Here’s one that occurred to me after a recent brush with crime: say you are worried about burglars and you install a grid of iron bars on your windows. But the result is that you find no outside light penetrates the mesh. As you mope about in the dark, the question arises: how many (and which) bars will you remove so that you are still safe from burglars, but enough light gets through? Srivastava’s sparsification can offer answers.

He does so by translating graph problems into equivalents in another area of mathematics. That process itself produces unexpected connections to still other fields. For example, sparsification is “intimately related” (his words) to the L-functions that Ritabrata Munshi studies. Such connections are, he wrote to me, “extremely fruitful and reveal hidden, beautiful structure”.

It’s this work that led him and two colleagues, Adam Marcus and Daniel Spielman, to the proof of a half-century-old conundrum, the Kadison-Singer problem. He told the journal Asian Scientist: “It implies that it is possible to ‘approximate’ a broad class of networks by networks with very few edges.” Sparsification, in other words.

The proof brought them a major mathematics award last year, the George Pólya Prize. (Pólya was a distinguished Hungarian mathematician who also wrote a small classic on solving problems, How To Solve It).

It also inspired the science journalist Dana Mackenzie to almost poetic heights in SIAM News: “What is the best kind of mathematical problem? Does it resemble a distant mountaintop, beckoning people from far and wide to attack the summit…? Or is it like a vast subterranean river, connecting different realms of mathematics, mysteriously disappearing below the surface and reappearing where you least expect it? [In 2014], it was the turn of one of the great subterranean rivers of mathematics to emerge into the limelight. [A] three-member team of mathematicians and computer scientists posted a proof online for the Kadison-Singer conjecture.”

Connections between seemingly unrelated themes, the “hidden, beautiful structure” they reveal; this is why Srivastava told me: “There seems to be a deep underlying unity in math, and it is thrilling to make contact with it.”

What would it do to our kids if it was taught in that spirit of thrill and wonder? But let Srivastava have the last word here. Speaking toMan’s World after he won the Pólya Prize, he said, “The main reason I like to do math is because it’s beautiful… I actually think of mathematics as magic.”

Maybe that even answers Kaneenika Sinha’s dilemma.


Why schools should be more like organic farms, according to one of the world’s top creativity experts


The problem with schools isn’t that they work poorly. It’s that they work too well at doing the wrong thing.

Nine years after Ken Robinson delivered the most-watched TED talk of all time, the education expert is back with a book that answers the talk’s titular question, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”

Spoiler: Most schools, but not all.

In “Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education,” Robinson highlights the schools that have embraced the challenge of treating students as individuals, not as factory-made widgets.

Still, there is much work to be done.

Education uses uniform curricula with identical textbooks to prepare kids for the same tests at the end of the year. Too busy with formalities, kids miss out on actual learning.

If we want to transform the failing model, we need a new analogy for how that model is supposed to work, Robinson argues. We treat education like industrial manufacturing when, in reality, it’s closer to organic farming.

In farming, crop has different needs at different times in order to produce the greatest yield. Why not apply the process to education? 

Robinson distills his solution of so-called “organic education” into four key principles:

Health: Promoting the development and well-being of the whole student, intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Ecology: Recognizing the vital interdependence of all of these aspects of development, within each student and the community as a whole.

Fairness: Cultivating the individual talents and potential of all students, whatever their circumstances and respects the roles and responsibilities of those who work with them.

Care: Creating optimum conditions for students’ development, based on compassion, experience, and practical wisdom.

‘All the science in the world’

So what does the combination of those four factors look like? A learning environment in which kids’ passions and differences are celebrated, in spite of the strict demands to teach toward a standardized test.

In practice, that begins on the front lines, with teachers getting excited about what’s important to their students. 

Robinson offers the example of Smokey Road Middle School, located in Newnan, Georgia. The school saw a revolving door of principals before Dr. Laurie Barron showed up. In no time, Barron transformed the school’s entire approach by simply asking the teachers to connect with their students.

“I’ve got some teachers who couldn’t care less about football, but they’ll go to a football game and cheer on Bobby and then use Bobby in a science equation the next day,” Robinson quoted Barron as saying. “Bobby will do all the science in the world for that teacher.”

It’s a small gift of time and effort, but one that could end up making all the difference.

Unfortunately for today’s students, the grassroots revolution Robinson points to is slow-going. Schools have largely failed to change the analogy upon which they operate, either out of laziness, lack of creativity, or simply ignorance. 

“If you design a system to do something specific, don’t be surprised if it does it,” Robinson writes. “If you run an education system based on standardization and conformity that suppresses individuality, imagination, and creativity, don’t be surprised if that’s what it does.”


Seven Evangelical media networks active in India

Listing out seven Evangelical media networks active in India.

  1. CBN India

Headquartered in Gurgaon (Delhi-NCR), the Christian Broadcasting Network claims it reaches across the country sharing the good news of the Gospel coupled with giving assistance to those in need to “one and all without any discrimination of faith, opportunity or status.”

Pat Robertson, founder and Chairman of CBN says, “The events of recent days around the world, remind us that we are living in tumultuous times! Yet in spite of global unrest and uncertainty, and relentless division and rancor…. we can lead successful prosperous and meaningful lives, no matter what this world brings our way.”

CBN also sponsors television programmes, which besides documenting the work of CBN Foundation also propagates tales of people who allegedly overcame life’s many problems with the extraordinary strength of faith (in Christ).

These programmes are telecast in four Indian languages:

  1. Hindi: ‘Ek Nayee Zindagi
  2. Punjabi: ‘Ik Navi Zindagi
  3. Telugu: ‘Nireekshana
  4. Bengali: ‘Samadhan

It is clear that this is an overt propaganda as it paints humanitarian activities in Christian hues, and the TV hosts asking the participants to offer prayers over live broadcast. These shows are broadcasted on television channels like Sony TV.

CBN also makes good use of technology as it has interactive games for children titled ‘Bible Games.’ CBN and its chief Pat Robertson have in the past branded Hindus as devil worshippers and have called for mass-scale conversions.

On 23 March 1995, Robertson in his television program “The 700 Club” said this about Indians:

“I feel that these beautiful people, they are so hungry for God. You know this is the largest democracy in the world, over a billion people, and perhaps this would be considered the most religious country on earth. But they are looking for the wrong God. I believe they are open to Jesus, and my hope is to see 100 million Indians come to the Lord Jesus Christ in the next few years.”

In this video, Pat Robertson cautions against participation in Yoga and seems to think that “Hindu” is a language. And in this video we see Robertson interviewing Dr. Paul Dhinakaran who is the Vice-Chancellor of Karunya University (a Deemed University located in Coimbatore) about his ministry in India. Dinakaran claims even BJP Chief Ministers welcome him to organize ‘miracle shows.’

From a 1995 edition of Hinduism Today:

The March 23rd episode details Robertson’s conversion of some Hindu people of Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh, India, to the Christian religion. In the course of the show, Robertson makes shameful, unChristian accusations against the Hindu faith, the world’s oldest religion. When contacted, Mr. Robertson’s office told us he was “unavailable for comment.”

To begin, Robertson’s experiences in Rajahmundry are described by a narrator. The scene is of a poverty-stricken people, bathing in the river at the head of which rests a statue of Lord Siva. Water is pouring out of Siva’s head and a snake is wrapped around his head as well.

Robertson and his son are found in the midst of the scene, observing and mocking the early morning prayers of Hindus. As they witness the scene, they make incorrect reference to the river as “Siva’s sperm,” and claim that the people “were supposed to wash away their sins in the sperm of the God.”

Robertson goes on to characterize Hinduism as having evil tendencies toward random spiritual worship and polytheism. Mr. Robertson’s son and fellow evangelist, Gordon, stated disparagingly, “Whenever [Hindus] feel any sort of inspiration, whether it’s by a river or under a tree, on top of a hill, they figure that some God or spirit is responsible for that.

And so they’ll worship that tree, they’ll worship that hill or they’ll worship anything.” What was even more regrettable was Robertson’s assertion of some connection between idol worship and the poverty in India. Robertson does not deny his son’s claim that “Wherever you find this type of idolatry, you’ll find a grinding poverty. The land has been cursed.”

But if the argument of poverty as the curse of India is not enough for the American audience of “The 700 Club,” they next hear Hinduism boldly labeled “demonic.” Robertson says, “Siva [is] the God of Destruction, and his consort, the Goddess of death [Kali] — that black, ugly statue there with all those fierce eyes.”

He then suggests that the evil tendencies of death and destruction can be found in those who worship the deities: “I mean these people are out to kill other human beings in the name of their God.”

Pat Robertson also heads the Regent University which trains Indian Christians in the methods of gaining more and more converts. In doing so these graduates are often seen demeaning indigenous traditions.CBN has consistently backed Evangelicals in the Republican Party and many members like Mike Huckabee are open about this association.

  1. BosNewsLife

This is Central Europe’s first Christian News Agency which publishes overtly communaland distorted news items about India.A few representative samples would suffice to illustrate its agenda:

  1. India Police Attack Christian Missionaries
  2. Former Jailed Widow Evangelist Dies In India

iii.                Christians Injured In India Church Attack

  1. India Police Detain Christians After Killing of Pastor

Even after police investigations have proved that these were misleading and fraudulent reports, the aforementioned news items have not been corrected. BosNewsLife also provides atrocity literature on caste violence to a neutral-sounding institution namedOxford Centre for Religion and Public Life, headed by an Evangelical academic named Rev’d Canon Dr. Vinay K. Samuel.

  1. Gegrapha

This organization of journalists all over the world seek to “build fellowships of Christians in newsrooms around the world, strengthen them in their profession, and encourage others to join them.”

Gegrapha has chapters in the United States and across the world and offers annual conferences, opportunities for mentorship, and prayer support.

Gegrapha began as a small prayer group in the mid-1980s when a group of Christians working for several media outlets in Washington, D.C. gathered to pray for the life of Terry Anderson. Anderson was the one-time bureau chief for the Associated Press who was taken hostage by the extremist group Hezbollah and held in captivity until 1991.

By that time, the group had become organized and started functioning as a network. David Aikman, then a senior correspondent for Time magazine, termed this network Gegrapha in 2002. David Aikman is a Christian fundamentalist who believes that:

As journalists all over the world, many of us operate in cultures which either do not acknowledge truth to exist or are hostile to those who claim that it exists and can be known. In this climate, we need to remind ourselves that we serve a King [i.e. Jesus] who embodies both truth and justice, and who indeed is the truth (John 14 : 6).

During the 1999 General Elections in India, NDTV journalist Jennifer Arul was featured prominently at the Gegrapha International Conference in England, where she said:

The burning of a missionary, the rape of nuns, the destruction of churches, the assault on a priest, are ominous signals to Christians of all denominations…. How many perpetrators against the Christian community in Indian have been brought to book? Commissions of inquiry are appointed but very little comes out of them. Action? Seldom! A true picture or a report objectively and dispassionately, to be correct and impartial. It is no wonder that those who try to do their Christian duty are branded as activists. Talking of activists, three days before I left Chennai I met John Dayal, the editor of the midday newspaper, based in Delhi. He has involved himself in the United Christian Council, which is currently involved in telling Christians about various anti-Christian activities around India, activities which, as a journalist, he obviously is privy to. We are due to have our general election during the month of September and the information he gave at that meeting was most valuable. I heard him and I also saw the reaction from the six hundred organizations that were represented…. Christian media persons like ourselves have to use the power we have to influence.

On another occasion she clearly stated that she prioritized her Christian identity over that of a journalist:

Do we believe we are journalists first and foremost and only then does the Christian label get tagged on? It’s a tricky question and one that needs thinking about. As for me, I believe that being a Christian journalist puts me in a uniquely privileged position to bring the truth, as I see it, to my 375 millions viewers who are of course the public Square.

Stephen David is another Gegrapha member who is the principal correspondent on political and current affairs for India Today. The impressions that are created internationally by these Indian Christian journalists, is that Hindus terrorize Christians, and therefore, foreign intervention is necessary for justice for Christians in India.

  1. Mission News network

An Evangelical news channel which paints India as a hostile rogue nation.

The oppressive caste system is blocking social mobility. Economic wealth is unevenly distributed. A new Hindu government (in power since May 2014 and led by Hindu hardliner Narendra Modi) is radicalizing society. All traditions of Christianity are affected by persecution in India, but Christian converts from a Hindu background and non-traditional Protestant groups are suffering most. At the top level the influence of fundamentalist Hindus has increased. Hindu radicals have started monitoring Christian activity in much detail. Many of them have planted spies in churches. Reports on pastors and church members beaten because of allegations of conversion are frequent; sometimes Christians are even killed.

Its website named OpenDoors ranks India at #21 in the list of countries “where Christians face the most persecution.” It has put India on a “Watch List.” Open Doorsalso has elaborate statistics and fairly detailed information about the political system of India, demographics, economics, and an entire fact sheet on India.

Also, interestingly, the first item on its “Prayer Points” reads thus:

For Christian converts to stand strong against those who are trying to force a return to Hinduism.[Emphasis added]

  1. The Voice of the Martyrs

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) claims that its organization is dedicated to “assisting our persecuted family worldwide”where “family” means Christians. It is actually an umbrella of several related Christian organizations “started through the influence of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand”and has presence in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.Its website also describes VOM as a “family of missions .collectively called the International Christian Association (ICA).” It runs the innocuously named website,persecution.com and makes no bones about its agenda. It even offers to smuggle Bibles to what it calls “captive nations”:

Christians residing in restricted nations are often denied access to Bibles. This fund helps VOM print and smuggle Bibles to believers—in their own language—who would otherwise live their lives without ever reading the word of God.

  1. North India Harvest Network (NIHN)

The stated mission of this network is “Plug, Prem and be Nice” where:

Plug= People in everyLanguage in every urban centre in every geographic division.

Prem= Prayer,Research, Equipping & training and Mobilisation

Nice=Networking, Initiative, Catalyst and Encouraging the missionaries.

This mission statement-cum-tactics have been put into proper use by other groups like the Seventh Day Adventists. Their activities in India started with the Canadian national, D.R. Watts, President for the South Asian Division of Seventh Day Adventists, who had been residing in India on a Business Visa.

When Watts arrived in India in 1997, the Seventh Day Adventist Church had a membership of 2.25 lakhs.Within five years of his arrival, membership shot up to seven lakhs.

Helping the Adventists in their activities is the Maranatha Volunteers International, a non-profit organization based in Sacramento, California which has two main goals. The first is to provide buildings needed for Seventh-day Adventist Churches around the world and, at the same time, to provide opportunities for mission volunteers.

These groups achieved their greatest success in the Ongole municipality in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh. Here, according to Pastor Michael Ryan, director of Global Mission (the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s international outreach department), some 100 Global Mission pioneers completed training andbaptized 50 villages surrounding Ongole beginning in September 2000.

  1. Assist News Service (ANS)

An evangelical channel known to have links with the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA), which often acts as a pressure group asking the US government to interfere in the internal matters of India.

FIACONA has a controversial history as this news item shows:

A former President of the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA) was arrested and charged with battery after he attempted to choke a demonstrator at a rally protesting the government control of temples in India.

JayachandPallekonda, 62, of 4110 Potter, Des Plaines, was charged with battery after he allegedly choked a demonstrator with his hands outside the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 9301 Bryn Mawr Ave. at 5:39 p.m.May 6.

Click here to watch the former President of FIACONA getting handcuffed by the Rosemont Police. It happens a minute and 13 seconds into the video.

ANS also has links with the infamous Gospel for Asia (read IndiaFacts exposes on Gospel for Asia), which published a news report on ANS as recently as three days ago (Note: IndiaFacts has captured a screenshot of the said news report in case ANS takes it down). The report details how various Churches in India are playing a huge role in the deadly earthquake that has devastated Nepal:

Members from many GFA-supported churches in India are responding unconditionally to the disastrous April 25 earthquake in Nepal with widespread prayer, fasting, generous giving, clothing and food drives, as well as sending relief teams to help restore their neighboring country… Their actions demonstrate the strength of the Christian church in South Asia… Among those responding are Believers Church congregations in the Uttar Pradesh region of northern India…. One of the most generous responses is being organized in Delhi…Gospel for Asia-supported Believers Churches in Kolkata have contributed enough donations to set a goal of rebuilding at least 100 homes, providing rations to 200 families for two to three weeks, and providing for children’s educational needs… Numerous churches have already been involved in fasting and prayer, such as in Bihar, which called for a three-day period of special fasting and prayer for God’s grace… Church-wide observances are scheduled for May 8 in Delhi and May 12 in Udaipur.

Gospel for Asia has served the church in Nepal for more than 25 years. [Emphasis added]

This is just the latest episode that shows the extent of penetration that Gospel for Asia has managed to achieve in North and East India, and shows how well-networked it is, for example, by utilizing ANS as a media platform.