Did the Buddha Break Away from Hinduism?

This was published in Hindu Human Rights, on 10 August 2013, and in Sutra Journal, October, 2015.

Orientalists have started treating Buddhism as a separate religion because they discovered it outside India, without any conspicuous link with India, where Buddhism was not in evidence. At first, they didn’t even know that the Buddha had been an Indian. It had at any rate gone through centuries of development unrelated to anything happening in India at the same time. Therefore, it is understandable that Buddhism was already the object of a separate discipline even before any connection with Hinduism could be made.

Buddhism In Modern India

In India, all kinds of invention, somewhat logically connected to this status of separate religion, were then added. Especially the Ambedkarite movement, springing from the conversion of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in 1956, was very driven in retro-actively producing an anti-Hindu programme for the Buddha.

Conversion itself, not just the embracing of a new tradition (which any Hindu is free to do, all while staying a Hindu) but the renouncing of one’s previous religion, as the Hindu-born politician Ambedkar did, is a typically Christian concept.

The model event was the conversion of the Frankish king Clovis, possibly in 496, who “burned what he had worshipped and worshipped what he had burnt.” (Let it pass for now that the Christian chroniclers slandered their victims by positing a false symmetry: the Heathens hadn’t been in the business of destroying Christian symbols.) So, in his understanding of the history of Bauddha Dharma (Buddhism), Ambedkar was less than reliable, in spite of his sterling contributions regarding the history of Islam and some parts of the history of caste.

But where he was a bit right and a bit mistaken, his later followers have gone all the way and made nothing but a gross caricature of history, and especially about the place of Buddhism in Hindu history.

The Ambedkarite worldview has ultimately only radicalized the moderately anti-Hindu version of the reigning Nehruvians. Under Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, Buddhism was turned into the unofficial state religion of India, adopting the “lion pillar” of the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka as state symbol and putting the 24-spoked Cakravarti wheel in the national flag.

Essentially, Nehru’s knowledge of Indian history was limited to two spiritual figures, viz. the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, and three political leaders: Ashoka, Akbar and himself. The concept of Cakravarti (“wheel-turner,” universal ruler) was in fact much older than Ashoka, and the 24-spoked wheel can also be read in other senses, e.g. the Sankhya philosophy’s worldview, with the central Purusha/Subject and the 24 elements of Prakrti/Nature.

The anglicized Nehru, “India’s last Viceroy,” prided himself on his illiteracy in Hindu culture, so he didn’t know any of this, but was satisfied that these symbols could glorify Ashoka and belittle Hinduism, deemed a separate religion from which Ashoka had broken away by accepting Buddhism. More broadly, Nehru thought that everything of value in India was a gift of Buddhism (and Islam) to the undeserving Hindus. Thus, the fabled Hindu tolerance was according to him a value borrowed from Buddhism.

In reality, the Buddha had been a beneficiary of an already established Hindu tradition of pluralism. In a Muslim country, he would never have preached his doctrine in peace and comfort for 45 years, but in Hindu society, this was a matter of course. There were some attempts on his life, but they emanated not from “Hindus” but from jealous disciples within his own monastic order.

So, both Nehru and Ambedkar, as well as their followers, believed by implication that at some point in his life, the Hindu-born renunciate Buddha had broken away from Hinduism and adopted a new religion, Buddhism. This notion is now omnipresent, and through school textbooks, most Indians have lapped this up and don’t know any better.

However, numerous though they are, none of the believers in this story have ever told us at what moment in his life the Buddha broke away from Hinduism. When did he revolt against it? Very many Indians repeat the Nehruvian account, but so far, never has any of them been able to pinpoint an event in the Buddha’s life which constituted a break with Hinduism. 

The Term “Hinduism”

Their first line of defence, when put on the spot, is sure to be:“Actually, Hinduism did not yet exist at the time.”So, their position really is:Hinduism did not exist yet, but somehow the Buddha broke away from it.Yeah, the secular position is that he was a miracle-worker.

Let us correct that: the word “Hinduism” did not exist yet. When Darius of the Achaemenid Persians, a near-contemporary of the Buddha, used the word “Hindu,” it was purely in a geographical sense: anyone from inside or beyond the Indus region.

When the medieval Muslim invaders brought the term into India, they used it to mean: any Indian except for the Indian Muslims, Christians or Jews. It did not have a specific doctrinal content except “non-Abrahamic,” a negative definition. It meant every Indian Pagan, including the Brahmins, Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins”), Jains, other ascetics, low-castes, intermediate castes, tribals, and by implication also the as yet unborn Lingayats, Sikhs, Hare Krishnas, Arya Samajis, Ramakrishnaites, secularists, and others who nowadays reject the label “Hindu.”

This definition was essentially also adopted by V.D. Savarkar in his book Hindutva (1923), and by the Hindu Marriage Act (1955). By this historical definition, which also has the advantages of primacy and of not being thought up by the wily Brahmins, the Buddha and all his Indian followers are unquestionably Hindus. In that sense, Savarkar was right when he called Ambedkar’s taking refuge in Buddhism “a sure jump into the Hindu fold.”

But the word “Hindu” is a favourite object of manipulation. Thus, secularists say that all kinds of groups (Dravidians, low-castes, Sikhs, etc.) are “not Hindu,” yet when Hindus complain of the self-righteousness and aggression of the minorities, secularists laugh at this concern: “How can the Hindus feel threatened? They are more than 80%!”

The missionaries call the tribals “not Hindus,” but when the tribals riot against the Christians who have murdered their Swami, we read about “Hindu rioters.” In the Buddha’s case, “Hindu” is often narrowed down to “Vedic” when convenient, then restored to its wider meaning when expedient.

One meaning which the word “Hindu” definitely does not have, and did not have when it was introduced, is “Vedic.” Shankara holds it against Patanjali and the Sankhya school (just like the Buddha did) that they don’t bother to cite the Vedas, yet they have a place in every history of Hindu thought.

Hinduism includes a lot of elements which have only a thin Vedic veneer, and numerous ones which are not Vedic at all. Scholars say that it consists of a “Great Tradition” and many “Little Traditions,” local cults allowed to subsist under the aegis of the prestigious Vedic line. However, if we want to classify the Buddha in these terms, he should rather be included in the Great Tradition.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha was a Kshatriya, a scion of the Solar or Ikshvaku dynasty, a descendant of Manu, a self-described reincarnation of Rama, the son of the Raja of the Shakya tribe, a member of its Senate, and belonging to the Gautama gotra (roughly “clan”).

Though monks are often known by their monastic name, Buddhists prefer to name the Buddha after his descent group, viz. the Shakyamuni, “renunciate of the Shakya tribe.” This tribe was as Hindu as could be, consisting according to its own belief of the progeny of the eldest children of patriarch Manu, who were repudiated at the insistence of his later, younger wife.

The Buddha is not known to have rejected this name, not even at the end of his life when the Shakyas had earned the wrath of king Vidudabha of Kosala and were massacred. The doctrine that he was one in a line of incarnations which also included Rama is not a deceitful Brahmin Puranic invention but was launched by the Buddha himself, who claimed Rama as an earlier incarnation of his. The numerous scholars who like to explain every Hindu idea or custom as “borrowed from Buddhism” could well counter Ambedkar’s rejection of this “Hindu” doctrine by pointing out very aptly that it was “borrowed from Buddhism.” 

Career

At 29, he renounced society, but not Hinduism. Indeed, it is a typical thing among Hindus to exit from society, laying off caste marks including civil name.

The Rg-Veda already describes the Muni-s as having matted hair and going about sky-clad: such are what we now know as Naga Sadhus. Asceticism was a recognized practice in Vedic society long before the Buddha. Yajnavalkya, the Upanishadic originator of the notion of Self, renounced life in society after a successful career as court priest and an equally happy family life with two wives.

By leaving his family and renouncing his future in politics, the Buddha followed an existing tradition within Hindu society. He didn’t practice Vedic rituals anymore, which is normal for a Vedic renunciate (though Zen Buddhists still recite the Heart Sutra in the Vedic fashion, ending with“sowaka,”i.e., svaha).

He was a late follower of a movement very much in evidence in the Upanishads, viz. of spurning rituals (Karmakanda) in favour of knowledge (Jnanakanda). After he had done the Hindu thing by going to the forest, he tried several methods, including the techniques he learned from two masters and which did not fully satisfy him−but nonetheless enough to include them in his own and the Buddhist curriculum.

Among other techniques, he practised Anapanasati,“attention to the breathing process,” the archetypal yoga practice popular in practically all yoga schools even today. For a while he also practised an extreme form of asceticism, still existing in the Hindu sect of Jainism. He exercised his Hindu freedom to join a sect devoted to certain techniques, and later the freedom to leave it, remaining a Hindu at every stage.

He then added a technique of his own, or at least that is what the Buddhist sources tell us, for in the paucity of reliable information, we don’t know for sure that he hadn’t learned the Vipassana (“mindfulness”) technique elsewhere.

Unless evidence of the contrary comes to the surface, we assume that he invented this technique all by himself, as a Hindu is free to do. He then achieved Bodhi, the “Awakening.” By his own admission, he was by no means the first to do so. Instead, he had only walked the same path of other Awakened beings before him.

At the bidding of the Vedic gods Brahma and Indra, he left his self-contained state of Awakening and started teaching his way to others. When he “set in motion the wheel of the Law” (Dharma-cakra-pravartana, Chinese Falungong), he gave no indication whatsoever of breaking with an existing system.

On the contrary, by his use of existing Vedic and Upanishadic terminology (Arya, “Vedically civilized”;Dharma), he confirmed his Vedic roots and implied that his system was a restoration of the Vedic ideal that had become degenerate. He taught his techniques and his analysis of the human condition to his disciples, promising them to achieve the same Awakening if they practiced these diligently.

Caste

On caste, we find him in full cooperation with existing caste society. Being an elitist, he mainly recruited among the upper castes, with over 40% Brahmins. These would later furnish all the great philosophers who made Buddhism synonymous with conceptual sophistication.

Conversely, the Buddhist universities trained well-known non-Buddhist scientists such as the astronomer Aryabhata. Lest the impression be created that universities are a gift of Buddhism to India, it may be pointed out that the Buddha’s friends Bandhula and Prasenadi (and, according to a speculation, maybe the young Siddhartha himself) had studied at the university of Takshashila, clearly established before there were any Buddhists were around to do so. Instead, the Buddhists greatly developed an institution which they had inherited from Hindu society.

The kings and magnates of the eastern Ganga plain treated the Buddha as one of their own (because that is what he was) and gladly patronized his fast-growing monastic order, commanding their servants and subjects to build a network of monasteries for it. He predicted the coming of a future Awakened leader like himself, the Maitreya (“the one practising friendship/charity”), and specified that he would be born in a Brahmin family.

When king Prasenadi discovered that his wife was not a Shakya princess but the daughter of the Shakya ruler by a maid-servant, he repudiated her and their son; but his friend the Buddha made him take them back.

Did he achieve this by saying that birth is unimportant, that “caste is bad” or that “caste doesn’t matter,” as the Ambedkarites claim? No, he reminded the king of the old view (then apparently in the process of being replaced with a stricter view) that caste was passed on exclusively in the paternal line.

Among hybrids of horses and donkeys, the progeny of a horse stallion and a donkey mare whinnies, like its father, while the progeny of a donkey stallion and a horse mare brays, also like its father. So, in the oldest Upanishad, Satyakama Jabala is accepted by his Brahmins-only teacher because his father is deduced to be a Brahmin, regardless of his mother being a maid-servant. And similarly, king Prasenadi should accept his son as a Kshatriya, even though his mother was not a full-blooded Shakya Kshatriya.

When he died, the elites of eight cities made a successful bid for his ashes on the plea: “We are Kshatriyas, he was a Kshatriya, therefore we have a right to his ashes”. After almost half a century, his disciples didn’t mind being seen in public as still observing caste in a context which was par excellence Buddhist.

The reason is that the Buddha in his many teachings never had told them to give up caste, e.g. to give their daughters in marriage to men of other castes. This was perfectly logical: as a man with a spiritual message, the Buddha wanted to lose as little time as possible on social matters. If satisfying your own miserable desires is difficult enough, satisfying the desire for an egalitarian society provides an endless distraction from your spiritual practice. 

The Seven Rules

There never was a separate non-Hindu Buddhist society.

Most Hindus worship various gods and teachers, adding and sometimes removing one or more pictures or statues to their house altar. This way, there were some lay worshippers of the Buddha, but they were not a society separate from the worshippers of other gods or Awakened masters. This box-type division of society in different sects is another Christian prejudice infused into modern Hindu society by Nehruvian secularism. There were only Hindus, members of Hindu castes, some of whom had a veneration for the Buddha among others.

Buddhist buildings in India often follow the designs of Vedic habitat ecology or Vastu Shastra. Buddhist temple conventions follow an established Hindu pattern. Buddhist mantras, also outside India, follow the pattern of Vedic mantras.

When Buddhism spread to China and Japan, Buddhist monks took the Vedic gods (e.g. the twelve Adityas) with them and built temples for them. In Japan, every town has a temple for the river-goddess Benzaiten, i.e. “Saraswati Devi,” the goddess Saraswati. She was not introduced there by wily Brahmins, but by Buddhists.

At the fag end of his long life, the Buddha described the seven principles by which a society does not perish (which Sita Ram Goel has given more body in his historical novel Saptasheel, in Hindi), and among them are included: respecting and maintaining the existing festivals, pilgrimages and rituals; and revering the holy men.

These festivals etc. were mainly “Vedic,” of course, like the pilgrimage to the Saraswati River that Balarama made in the Mahabharata, or the pilgrimage to the Ganga which the elderly Pandava brothers made. Far from being a revolutionary, the Buddha emphatically outed himself as a conservative, both in social and religious matters. He was not a rebel or a revolutionary, but wanted the existing customs to continue.

The Buddha was every inch a Hindu.

http://indiafacts.co.in/did-the-buddha-break-away-from-hinduism/

Easy To Mock Hindoos And Their Holy Cows, Difficult To Truly Revere Nature

A response to Jaitirth Rao’s ‘This Matter Of Beef’

Jaitirth Rao in his article, this matter of beef starts with making a right statement that the present laws protect neither the cows nor the dairy farmers. This post of mine is not just a reply to his article but a call to all those who think of themselves as truly liberal (on both sides of political ideologies) to examine their arguments about beef and environmentalism and yes, ‘economic viability’.

Before I proceed, please read my ceremonial disclaimer (written for those friends who have some special intellectual capabilities to assume otherwise).

—What happened in Dadri was a crime and is punishable by law. No less, no more and I don’t support lynching, beating up or murdering on taking law into own hands in any form, given any reason.

—I respect Mr Jaitirth Rao very much. The article is a counter to his arguments and is not to be taken otherwise.  

The inability of dairy farmers in sustaining the old cows which are not economically ‘useful’ is real. My deeply hurt emotions aside, let us accept that it is a problem that a farmer faces. The death of animals in stray accidents and by consuming harmful plastic waste (our precious gift to nature and our callous denial to think about recycling processes, lest we forget) is regrettable.

Ranjit Sinhji’s culinary choices don’t define my sensibilities, nor does Bhavabhuti’s supposed liking for veal. Not even the supposed verses of Rig Veda or whatever part of scriptures that mention cow meat define my sensibilities. As a Hindu, it is a matter of pride for me that the Hindoos (Continuing Mr. Rao’s advised spelling) have gone ahead and defied their Vedic references to beef and have stood against slaughter(assuming such references exist). I call this evolution of thought. We all evolved from cannibalism too. Just that there were no religious texts in that period. In course of evolution, we moved away from it and equated cannibalism with Rakshasatva or demonic nature. Agriculture is considered a breakthrough in human civilization. Why? Logically because we stop being predators and become creators, limiting the harm done by us to the environment.

Any asset (and a domesticated animal, since Mesopotamian times has been viewed as an asset) automatically becomes a less attractive investment if it loses its residual value.

This is the kind of statement that could hurt the sensibilities of a Hindu who claims to have even an iota of care for the nature and to any lover of environment. Cattle are the one main reason behind our evolution from predators to creators. A Hindu mind considers them as a partner in the civilization and not mere assets that exist to provide economical value. One can argue that cattle was considered as ‘wealth’ in any civilization and hence the argument. A Hindu heart considers even ‘wealth’ as worship worthy. In fact it owes its reverence to every animate and inanimate object that contributed to universal sustenance and the ‘holy cow’ is a symbol of this universal reverence.

Humane slaughter does sound like a desirable alternative to the otherwise painful death. But it does so assuming that the animal’s right to life is a function of its economic viability to the human being. Mr. Rao also feels that keeping the animals whose meat is protein rich at the cost of humans remaining protein deficient being a tad stupid is regrettable. No, the civilization and evolution we pride about, if it has just turned us into sophisticated predators, there is too less to be proud of being a human and lecture about humanity.

“Keeping alive surplus cattle which contribute to the dreaded methane in the environment (Dear Reader: I shall spare you the scatological details) is clearly a very very bad thing as far as Eco friends are concerned”

I shall reserve my reaction on this statement and it might just be a worthy task for each of us to contemplate on the multitude ways in which we release dreaded stuff into environment. May be we can make a case for humane slaughter of humans too! (I am not serious, but the logic suggests it this way).

Science is a great way to look at development. But looking at it from just a curious statistical evidence might not make case for slaughter. Slaughter to win a couple of cricket matches then makes it look like it is fine to kill a being for our sportive delight. I would rather prefer to lose a few matches or to come up with any breakthrough that could enable a sportsperson to depend less on height. Alternatively, can we think supplements?

The questions about the effectiveness of the law remain. But we need to choose how we would proceed to make them effective. Of course it is easy and tempting to mock at the Hindoo’s tailored protection of the holy ‘cow’. It is also sane to challenge the Hindoos to arrange for alternative protection centres as opposed to abandoning them on the road to die. (We can alternatively watch the way we dispose plastic unless we are fine with the thought that we are the blessed species with sole rights to pollute environment with plastic while the animals can be humanely slaughtered for their dreaded methane).

I know that it hurts the high egos of intellectuals to recognize the simple minded environmental symbolism of Hindoos. As a Hindu, I would look up at anyone taking this love for the holy cow forward to a stage of saner implementation where being a human does not mean coming up with ridiculous arguments to justify slaughter. If supporting slaughter makes me a liberal, the word seems to lose its sheen. Would prefer to be called otherwise for siding with life.

http://blogs.swarajyamag.com/2015/10/15/easy-to-mock-hindoos-and-their-holy-cows-difficult-to-truly-revere-nature/

Stuck in the Slums of Secularist History

 Sandeep Balakrishna

It is a mathematical certainty that cricket commentator Mr. Ramachandra Guha is only an arm’s length away from jumping in to defend the prolonged tyranny of the dark period of Muslim rule of India. I considered adding “alleged historian” to “cricket commentator” but the wicked Mysorepak fanatic, Anand Ranganathan supplied the world with a delicious new concoction: “regional historian.”

Renaming New Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road to Abdul Kalam Road is the latest occasion for Mr. Guha to re-brandish his Muslim tyranny-defending sword in the pages of Hindustan Times.

In a line, Guha’s piece is a tasteless mix of distorted history, denial of atrocities suffered by Hindus at the hands of Muslims, trivializing the suffering and struggles of Hindus against Muslim tyranny, hatred towards India’s majority, and gratuitous advice to rich businessmen.

The voluminous record of Ramachandra Guha’s writings provides substantial evidence to prove that he clothes his false history of India in Tuxedo. Singular but not limited instances of this Guhan phenomenon are the edification of a mass murderer like Jinnah, a violent society-wrecker like E.V. Ramaswami Naicker, and the Missionary exploiter of underage tribal girls, Verrier Elwin as “Makers” of Modern India.

And so it’s unsurprising when he writes:

“The renaming [of Aurangzeb Road] was greeted with great acclaim on social media, and beyond. The enthusiasm was in part a mark of the esteem in which Abdul Kalam was held; in part an expression of Hindutva hatred for that hateful Muslim ruler Aurangzeb…”

As many have accurately observed, would you find a road named in the honour of Hitler anywhere in Israel?

One finds the clearest proof for Ramachandra Guha’s comprehensive mental colonization—or his application of the standard Marxist template—in “an expression of Hindutva hatred for that hateful Muslim ruler Aurangzeb.” In which case, could we also term this characterization as Guhatva hatred of all things Hindu?

As many have accurately observed, would you find a road named in the honour of Hitler anywhere in Israel? The fact that Mr. Guha nonchalantly avoids even a mention of Aurangzeb’s prolonged record of Islam-inspired destruction of everything Hindu should serve as an additional yardstick for his “view” of Indian history. There’s also a deeper reason for this, to quote the perceptive historian and scholar Koenraad Elst:

Aurangzeb

“Aurangzeb…was a pious Muslim and harmed his own economic interests when that was necessary to serve Islam. Indeed, his policy of offending the Hindus was costly from the beginning and forced him into unnecessary military campaigns which moreover hurt economic life in his empire. So, he destroyed tens of thousands of Hindu temples (as per his own records) not because he just felt like it, but because that iconoclasm was what Islam dictated…You may direct all your ire at Aurangzeb, and while applauding the Moghuls would be prefered, this is still a kind of ire tolerated by the secularist, because it leaves Islam untouched…Just as the Islamic State’s conduct is a faithful emulation of the Prophet’s behaviour, Aurangzeb’s iconoclasm and jizya were but a faithful application of the Quran and Mohammed’s example. This is not going to make you popular, even supposed extremists seek ways of avoiding an ideological confrontation (i.e. confrontation with an ideology, which they confuse with confrontation with a community).”

More than anything, I suspect that the real reason Guha wrote this piece owes to the anxiety he must have felt when he read Mr. Mohandas Pai’s tweet, which he quotes:

“Are there any roads named after Chatrapathi Shivaji, Ranjit Singh, Maharaja Pratap, who fought to save us, in New Delhi?”

And then proceeds to praise Mohandas Pai and issues him a certificate of good behaviour in which is embedded a veiled warning.

“I know and admire Mohandas Pai. He is a public-spirited philanthropist, who has given much of his wealth to social schemes…Although Pai is himself non-communal…”

This pro bono titbit of supercilious advice should be awarded the champion’s trophy for arrogance. Given how magically Guha reads the minds of the majority community as seeking to “demonise Muslims and to exalt Hindus and Sikhs instead…”and “…to pull down Muslims figures from the past, so as to taunt or provoke Indian Muslims in the present,” it’s only fair to do some Guha-mind reading. And so, when he awards Mr. Pai with that coveted “non-Communal” prize, can we interpret it as “Mr. Pai, the next time you do this, I’ll take it away from you?”

The point is not to defend Mr. Mohandas Pai. I’m sure he can do it far better himself, but the point is to underscore the historically-documented Marxist tactic that Ayn Rand has expounded so well in Fountainhead: condemn wealth, but use the wealthy.

Also one doesn’t fail to notice a glaring characteristic of all of such cricket-commentators cum regional historians, and Nehruvian academics and intellectuals when Guha claims that Pai’s tweet was “widely endorsed, suggesting that many middle class Indians wished these rulers to have their names on roads in New Delhi currently named after Humayun, Babur, Akbar…”

The glaring characteristic is their near-total disconnectedness with the real world, of what millions of Indians—not just the middle class—actually think about these things. I shall let this passage from Dr.S L Bhyrappa’s powerful Aavarna illustrate it:

“Over twenty-five lakh pilgrims visit Varanasi every year. To these pilgrims, Varanasi is that ultimate and dateless spiritual harbour, the earthly berth of an entire way of life symbolized by the Vishwanath temple. This is the kind of fervour and longing every Hindu has for the Vishwanath temple. It is this that makes them visualize a grand mental image of the of the temple.

However, when they actually go there, they’re aghast, and their mental image is shattered. Disappointment doesn’t describe the feeling they experience when they see with their own eyes that the object of their devotion doesn’t exist.  In its place, a huge mosque towers over not just the temple-site—it invades the vision of the entire city, which Hindus consider as their holiest.

Now, these pilgrims return home thoroughly disillusioned and share their disillusionment with family, cousins, relatives, neighbours and friends. When this is the bitter, everyday reality, on what basis do we hope to promote Hindu-Muslim amity? You can rewrite history textbooks and cover up these historical truths. But when the students who’ve read your textbooks go on educational tours to such places and ask uncomfortable questions, what answers should their teachers give? This is not just about Kashi or Ayodhya. Historical research yields us some thirty thousand temples that were destroyed by Muslim kings.”

This is the reality Mr. Guha wants to wish away—or sweep under the carpet. He is after all a contributor to our history textbooks. And also, yes, it is the wish of these millions to preserve the memory of the sacrifices and struggles of their ancestors by naming roads in their honour. And this sentiment has always been there among millions of ordinary Indians. Except that the Internet and social media have enabled them to express it openly now.

So, does Mr. Guha want to deny this civilisational memory to these millions of his own countrymen? If he does, it also means that he’s slandering his own ancestors who were undoubtedly communal in the sense the word is used in the unique Guhan lexicon.

And now we arrive at the reason Anand Ranganathan bestowed the “regional historian” honour upon Mr. Guha.

In a bizarre rebellion against reason, Mr. Guha labels Shivaji and Maharana Pratap “regional figures” (note: only figures, not “rulers,” or even “chieftains”) because…hold your breath: because Mr. Guha’s home town is Dehradun and Mr. Mohandas Pai’s is Mangalore! And that these “expressions of Rajput and Maratha pride respectively make some sense in regional contexts; less so in the capital of our large and diverse country.” In which case why would Akbar who ruled from this “capital of our large and diverse country” spend considerable time and energy fighting to wipe out Maharana Pratap, and why did Aurangzeb do the same with Shivaji?

Mr. Guha takes enormous liberties with history with impunity. Even at the peak of their power, the Mughal Empire did not hold sway over all of India. Second, Shivaji’s Empire at its peak included all of Maharashtra, important parts of Gujarat, parts of Karnataka, parts of Andhra, and Tamil Nadu.
For a mere “regional figure,” Shivaji’s naval power was fearsome and unparalleled. And he lorded over the entire Konkan coast—yes, the same coast where Mr. Guha claims Shivaji was unknown, all the while trying to give phony history lessons to Mr. Mohanas Pai for that unforgivable tweet. It is also understandable that Mr. Guha omits mentioning Shivaji’s naval chief, the formidable Kanhoji Angrey who scared the English, Dutch and Portuguese witless. Perhaps Mr. Guha would like to read an extraordinary account of his exploits in Jaswant Singh’s Defending India.

And I guess we have to go with Mr. Guha regarding the people of Doon Valley: after all, Rajiv Gandhi was not yet born.

And for a mere “regional figure,” Shivaji’s statues and monuments exist in almost every city and town of Maharashtra, and in Goa, Bangalore, Vadodara, Surat,Agra, Arunachal Pradesh, and Delhi. There is a statue of Shivaji inside the premises of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Pune, which in Mr. Guha’s worldview makes it a centre where majoritarianism is practiced. Equally, the Indian Parliament itself is a majoritarian institution given the presence of an equestrian statue of Shivaji inside the Parliament House complex. So is the Postal department which has released stamps commemorating him, and the Indian Navy, which has the INS Shivaji naval base.

The same more or less applies to Maharana Pratap whose memory is preserved beyond the monuments, parks etc in Udaipur.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Ramachandra Guha does not provide a single shred of evidence to back up his grand, sweeping pontifications related to history.

Indeed, the true reason behind Mr. Guha’s selective and misleading history is not whether Shivaji or Rana Pratap were known in Dehradun or Mangalore but the fact that these heroes relentlessly tormented Guha’s favourite historical Muslim tyrants. Oh, and there’s this bit about how these Hindu kings were “all lords in an age of feudalism.”

To be sure, the application of the word “feudal” in India’s historical context of Hindu kingdoms is of suspicious validity. Hindu kingdoms ruled by the dictum of “dharma” as in “Raja Dharma,” a far cry from the original definition of feudalism which originated and thrived in Europe. Citing Shivaji’s own example, his coronation was considerably delayed because he didn’t originally hail from a Kshatriya lineage. In feudal Europe, a typical robber baron (this was what a typical feudal lord was) would simply butcher his way through said coronation. But this is a discussion for another day.

If anything, the Nehruvian ecosystem is perhaps the true feudalism that continues to exist in India albeit in a severely diminished stature and power now.
Sandeep Balakrishna is a columnist and author of Tipu Sultan: the Tyrant of Mysore. He has translated S.L. Bhyrappa’s “Aavarana: the Veil” from Kannada to English.


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Rearming Hinduism: Book Review

Abhinav Agarwal

Rearming Hinduism: Nature, Hinduphobia and the Return of Indian Intelligence Paperback, by Vamsee Juluri

He who controls the history of a people controls the people.

Colonization of the land is easier to fight than colonization of the mind. Who then gets to define Hinduism today? Should foreigners with a tainted past and suspect motives get an unqualified right to do so? For those who have abrogated to themselves this right, what’s their agenda, their motives?

Academia in the United States has a well-deserved reputation for independence, and exercises far greater intellectual honesty – for the most part – than compared to, say, many of the leftist-controlled institutions in India.

This streak of honesty breaks down, however, when it comes to Indology, and especially Hinduism studies. Almost without exception, Hinduism as a subject in US academia has for decades been in the control of the racists, the xenophobes, the bigots, the supremacists, and at times the outright insane.

Like the person who insisted in an “acclaimed” book that “most of India” lay in the Northern Hemisphere (for the record, and this is not a matter of opinion – all of India is entirely within the Northern Hemisphere; not “most,” but every square-inch. In fact, the southernmost tip of India – Kanyakumari – is a good 800 kilometers north of the Equator, and has been that way for at least the last 15 million years)!

Vamsee Juluri’s book, “Rearming Hinduism”, is an intellectual tour de-force; a contemplative work where you are likely to go back and re-read pages to derive a greater appreciation of. In many ways, the book forces you to think about the import of what’s implied. In the small but growing literature on reclaiming Hinduism from the Hinduphobes, this book is a welcome addition.

Give this book a read.

Hinduphobia in Western Academia

Understanding Hinduphobia in western academia is a difficult task at best. Simplistic generalizations may act as a temporary palliative for the anger and hurt that their writings arouse, but they neither inform nor equip us to fight back effectively. Worse, they lead us into a permanently reactive mode, forever doomed to lose a battle where the rules of engagement are allowed to be set by the Hinduphobes.

Fighting this battle is not an easy task, since “Hinduphobia has five hundred years of privilege that gives it a monopoly on the press and the academy, and a tremendous influence over our own postcolonial educational system and intellectual class as well.

One need look no farther than our first prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, to see what lasting damage a colonized mind can inflict upon the cultural fabric of a nation.

The roots of Hinduphobia lie, unsurprisingly, in the “leftist takeover of the academy and the social sciences” in the United States. While the putative benefits of such a takeover were “diversity and empowerment“, when applied to Hinduism, however, it became impossible to be “conservative and Hindu in academia.

White guilt over slavery and colonization was transferred on to Hinduism, with all the baggage of racism, casteism, and fundamentalism. The right of the Hindu to represent himself and his religion at this high-table of academia was taken away – we were ipso-facto incapable of being intellectually honest.

For a long time, the uncontested narrative was that of a racially superior race “civilizing” the natives of dark lands, of converting – in more ways than one – savage races steeped in violence and primitive animal sacrifice to a higher, nobler ideal. When the European colonizers in the Indian subcontinent came across a more advanced and uncontestably superior civilization, history had to be rewritten – or created – as necessary.

Therefore, what the Hindus invented in Maths – like the decimal number system and zero among many, many other things – was credited more to the Arabs and later completely secularized (there were even suggestions that it were the Greeks that may have discovered the concept of zero, and that this discovery traveled to India only much later); while what was good in science – astronomy for example – was dated to a time well after those discoveries had been made in the west.

The Vedas were undeniably more advanced works – literary as well as philosophical – than anything the European colonizer had at home or had come across. The credit for these scriptures was thus lain at the door of the Aryans, who in turn were presumed to have brought their superior civilization to the subcontinent, and along with it the Vedas – the holiest scriptures of the Hindus.

Fabricating Indian History

But this appropriation was only the first step. The next was to systematically distort and demonize everything that could be conceivably termed as good in the Vedas – “The Vedas were words that were chanted when animals (and sometimes humans) were being killed. There is also a corollary claim now from this school of theorizing: the Vedas were also about killing and eating cows.

The more bizarre the theory, the greater the credence that was sought to be lent to it. An incestuous cabal of academic mafia would then work to praise each other’s works of thinly-disguised Hinduphobia and establish that only such literature received the imprimatur of authenticity. Arun Shourie’s book, “Eminent Historians”, was a devastating exposé of this you-scratch-my-back… clique among Indian historians.

“There are two reasons for the persistence of the myth of Vedic violence. At one level, it is geopolitical. It is the old colonizer’s myth about the superstitious natives, steeped in brutality and in need of civilizing forces, such as either a colonial religion or secular rule of law.”

The outlandishness of some of the claims of the Hinduphobes would elicit peals of laughter were they to be examined closely. It was declared that what was bad in Hinduism – in spite its foreign origins – was the result of the corrupting influence of the Indian climate which caused them to have “grown dark and dull in the sun.” For example, Abraham Eraly, an Indian Hinduphobe, employs this line, hook and sinker,  in at least one of his books – “The Age of Wrath.” Colonists carried perhaps a deep memory of their own experiences that coloured their world view.

The monsoons, so beloved and cherished and celebrated in India, when viewed from the colonist’s eyes, became the cause of imagined “violence” in Hinduism because they signified “uncertainty“! A presumed “normativity of violence” led to the “myth of Vedic violence“. “From Darwinian survivalism to the naturalization of violence is a small step. If we extend our scope now to violence in the media and pop culture, if we look at the story that all our movies, TV shows, videogames, books, and comics are putting out about violence, we can see how pervasive and widespread the naturalization of violence is today.

Vivisection is but one such manifestation of this casual insensitivity for life-forms deemed inferior to one’s own kind.

“What vivisection is really teaching us is not biology but an ideology; call it speciesism, necrophilia, scientism, Darwinist fatalism. In the end, it teaches millions of children that the suffering of a living being is inconsequential. It teaches them to harden their hearts, dehumanize themselves, and unnaturalize themselves, all in the great cause of science.”

The unremitting nature of these falsehoods and deceptions can perhaps be traced to the need to attribute success and progress to an innate superiority of the European, of the occidental over the orient, of the white over the black, the brown, the yellow.

It has been well-established that England got a leg up on the rest of Europe on the Industrial Revolution, thanks to the loot it plundered from India after the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Vamsee speculates that “It is surely more than a coincidence that they got over their dark ages and had their Enlightenment just around the time they met us, but we don’t hear much about that at all.

The brilliance of the colonials in whitewashing history to fit their Euro-centric supremacist narrative would lead one to suspect that this is more probable than what a “coincidence” would imply.

Book Exposes Hinduphobic Attacks

What the first half of Vamsee Juluri’s book also did, at least for me, was to look at all the different lines of attack by the Hinduphobic cabal and discern a common underlying theme – hidden albeit – that had hitherto escaped me.

It is not just academic hubris that can singly explain the vehemence of the Hinduphobes in insisting upon the immutability of the Aryan Invasion Theory. Upon this one myth rests an entire edifice of racism, bigotry, and Hinduphobia. Yes, the need to establish the primacy of the west as the superior, conquering race is one raison d’etre. But tied to the Aryan invasion theory is the much larger agenda to prove the subservience of all of Hindu thought, creativity, and nativity to foreign ideas. The convenient but false chronology that the Aryan Invasion Theory provides is thus a vital linchpin.

“But an even more brazen denial of Hindu agency, this time of women, takes place in Doniger’s mythic opus. If the Mahabharatha had a fierce, independent heroine (as opposed to a passive one in the Ramayana’s Sita), Doniger writes, it was probably because the bards were impressed and inspired by the fierce and independent Greek women who came by to India at that time. Anything, even Aphrodite and Athena, can be dragged into this now, just to evade the reality that there might be some Hindu women who were fierce and independent too. This too is a common orientalist trope, an old racist colonial myth about the dynamics between white women and people of color.

 

Rather than acknowledge that Indian women might have been independent and strong-willed themselves, a reality too many people know only too well, our Hinduphobic experts tell us to salute the independence of the foreign women who inspired Draupadi. The dusky Indian sexist male, after all, can only picture a strong woman when she comes from the civilizing West.”

Similarly, the argument that there was “no Ram in reality and that the Ramayana is a work of fiction” is only one line of attack, meant more to divert attention from the other, more insidious attack – “that the ideal of Ram Rajya was really a reflection of Ashoka’s rule because the Ramayana was composed around that time.

And on and on it goes – the relentless attacks of the Hinduphobes and its associated clique.

So what does Hinduism really teach?

Hinduism talks about one God, yet “without insisting there is only one God. We also speak of 330 million gods.” While there are many interpretations of that number, “The one I like best says that there were 330 million people on earth when that phrase was coined. It just means each one is a part of God…

While the first part of the book attempts to uncover the origins and psychology of the Hinduphobic academic gang in the west – and for my money, is brilliant in every sense of the word – the second part of the book is more a celebration of Hinduism, of the diversity that exists in it that sees the divine even in animals, where gods are seen not as mere gods but as friends, guides, companions, as children.

In “Rearming Hinduism“, the desire is in disarming “the ignorance that causes harm in this world.

This message is in the (last) chapter that was written from Kashi in May 2014 – a momentous time in India’s history, or as the author writes – “We have desa and kala on our side again.” A journey that took its first step in May 1998 took a giant stride in May 2014.

Abhinav Agarwal is a son, husband, father, technologist and an IIM-B Gold Medalist.

http://indiafacts.co.in/rearming-hinduism-book-review/

Five myths about yoga

Andrea R. Jain

Yoga has become more popular in the United States in recent years, with the number of people taking part in the discipline almost doubling between 2002 and 2012. Today, nearly 10 percent of Americans have tried it, and few of us have to travel farther than a neighborhood strip mall to practice our chaturangas. Yoga’s burgeoning trendiness isn’t restricted to the United States, either. In December, the United Nations declared June 21 the International Day of Yoga. The first celebration saw colossal gatherings of yogis worldwide, as hundreds, sometimes thousands, contorted their bodies into downward dogs and other poses en masse. Yoga has become one of the most fashionable practices in the world, yet a number of myths have grown up around it.

1. Yoga is exclusively of Hindu origin.

Yoga’s advocates and critics alike perpetuate the myth of its ancient Hindu origins. High-profile conservative pastors have warned of Christians’ inevitable Hinduization should they take up yoga, asserting that “when Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga.” The Hindu American Foundationhas made similar arguments, criticizing Americans for failing to acknowledge yoga’s Hindu origins — calling it “one of the greatest gifts of Hinduism to mankind” — and explaining that practitioners subject themselves to Hindu influences, whether intentionally or not.

Although there are countless Hindu forms of yoga, the notion that it is originally or definitively Hindu ignores its historical diversity. Throughout its history, yoga was shaped by an array of South Asian practices, ideas and aims widespread among not only Hindus but also Buddhists, Jains and adherents of other religions. Examples include the 3rd-to-4th-century Buddhist yogacara, or “yoga practice” school, and the 6th-century Jain thinker Virahanka Haribhadra and his text, the “Yoga Bindu,” or “seeds of yoga.”

Modern postural yoga — that popular fitness regimen made up of sequences of challenging poses — has more varied origins. It is a result of cross-cultural exchanges and influences from modern medicine, sports and exercise programs. In the 1930s, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, for example, became one of the first postural yoga gurus. He was Hindu but taught a form of yoga partly shaped by British calisthenics. Practitioners from India, Europe and the United States, with a wide array of religious convictions or none at all, created the yoga that Americans began adopting widely in the 20th century.

2. Yoga is not religious.

In many parts of the world, yoga aficionados tend to avoid describing the practice as religious. Yoga studios, conferences and journals prefer to define it as a regimen for nonsectarian “spiritual growth” or physical “fitness.” But while yoga isn’t specifically Hindu, that doesn’t mean it can’t be religious.

Some forms of modern yoga have explicitly religious aims, from Hindu schools such as siddha yoga, which promotes the “strength and delight that come from the certainty of the divine presence within you,” to Christian varieties such as holy yoga, which describes its mission as “experiential worship . . . to deepen people’s connection to Christ.” Even in other forms, yoga has implicit spiritual dimensions, though they’re not limited to one particular religious tradition. Practitioners participate in scripted rituals requiring movement through a sequence of postures meant to reorient them away from the day’s business and stresses and toward the goal of self-improvement.

Yoga classes in secular contexts have qualities that set a religious mood. B.K.S. Iyengar, a significant figure in the creation of modern postural yoga, tied his form of the practice to the ancient “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” which emphasize the exalted aim of enlightenment. K. Pattabhi Jois, another 20th-century influencer of modern yoga, taught that the nine positions of the sun salutation sequence delineate from the earliest Hindu texts, the Vedas.

3. Swami Vivekananda created modern yoga.

In the New York Times a few years back, Ann Louise Bardach wrote, wryly, that “you might blame Vivekananda” — a turn-of-the-century Hindu reformer, emissary to the United States and Indian nationalist who created a system of modern yoga called raja yoga — “for having introduced ‘yoga’ into the national conversation.” It’s a view echoed recently by the New Indian Express, which described him as “The Father of Yoga in the West.” The swami is known for a well-received speech he gave in Chicago in 1893 to the Parliament of the World’s Religions, in which he declared that “sectarianism, bigotry and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth” and “had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.” But the speech, in fact, never mentioned yoga.

In terms of his yogic teachings, Vivekananda had several Indian, European and North American contemporaries whose work was equally influential in the development of some of yoga’s earliest modern forms. Nineteenth-century American social radical Ida C. Craddock, who defended belly dancing’s “much needed blend of sexuality and spirituality,” for example, created a yoga system for married couples looking to improve their sex lives. Sadly, she was subsequently imprisoned on charges of obscenity and, facing the threat of more prison time, took her own life. Another early modern yoga advocate was Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian guru who traveled to the United States and taught yoga to Americans in the first half of the 20th century. He envisioned yoga as a scientific path to the experience of God and taught what he called kriya yoga at a time when such religious experimentation was unusual and discouraged. The organization he founded, the Self-Realization Fellowship, is still thriving.

Vivekananda’s emphasis on self-control, meditation and psychology appealed to many who challenged institutionalized religion. He encouraged his disciples to turn inward, toward the self, rather than outward, toward external authorities. But he wasn’t a fan of yoga poses — and those, of course, are what most of us envision when we think of yoga.

4. You need money to practice yoga.

Practitioners in the United States spend more than $10 billion a year on classes, clothing and accessories. A typical studio class can cost more than $18, and a Lululemon outfit pushes $200. One of the most ubiquitous symbols of yoga’s commercialization is the mat, which many consider a necessity to prevent slipping, to mark territory in crowded classes or to create a ritual space. The most committed adherents can shell out more than $100for a top-of-the-line mat.

But these accessories are recent additions to the experience. The firstpurpose-made yoga mat was not manufactured and sold until the 1990s. Before then, yoga was practiced on grass, towels, rugs or bare wooden floors. Today, a small set of traditionalists refuses to use mats, arguing that they interfere with the practice, especially by distracting the yogi away from the true aims of yoga and toward the accumulation of commodities.

Some yoga advocates have rejected its commercialization by offering nonprofit classes and opening studios that spurn expensive accessoriesYoga to the People, for instance, offers donation-based classes in several cities, and part of its mantra is: “There will be no correct clothes, There will be no proper payment, There will be no right answers.” The company says the rising cost of yoga is at odds with its essence. Yoga is meant to help people become self-actualized, the company says — a priceless aim.

Increasingly, yoga is also being introduced in marginalized communities, with classes taught in prisonsschools in low-income neighborhoods and homeless shelters.

5. Yoga has always been about physical fitness.

When we think of yoga today, we envision spandex-clad, perspiring, toned bodies in a room filled with mats. More than half of yoga enthusiasts in the United States say physical fitness is their primary motivation, according to a Yoga Journal survey, and 78 percent say they’re in it mostly to gain flexibility. That vision is a modern invention; nothing like it has existed in most of yoga’s history.

Beginning around the 7th and 8th centuries, Buddhists, Hindus and Jains reworked yoga into varying tantric systems with goals ranging from becoming an embodied god to developing supernatural powers, such as invisibility or flight.

In the early days of modern yoga, turn- of-the-century Indian reformers, along with Western social radicals, focused on the practice’s meditative and philosophical dimensions. For most of them, the physical aspects were not of primary importance.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-yoga/2015/08/14/2b4c8638-41ce-11e5-846d-02792f854297_story.html

China then and now: How a superpower fell, then rose again from the ashes of close-mindedness

Gautam Adhikari

NEW YORK: How important was China’s role in the growth and spread of civilisation? Clearly massive, as anyone who has taken even a cursory glance at the history of humankind knows. But has China ever been a trendsetter for the world? The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Met as everyone here calls it, is housing a splendid exhibition displaying answers to the question.

Since the expansion of the silk trade between China and the Roman Empire in the first and second centuries CE, Western fashion has craved for Chinese silk. In the 16th century, when sea trade expanded the supply of Chinese goods, this appetite increased sharply to last another couple of centuries. It wasn’t a one way street. Designs and motifs moved between producer and consumer, as trade inevitably encourages. On silk and wallpaper, on paintings and pottery.

In the costume section of the Met’s exhibition, China: Through the Looking Glass, world-famous modern stylists, from Yves Saint Laurent through Ralph Lauren to a galaxy of other stars in the universe of fashion, have explored how China fuelled fashion’s imagination for centuries. The exhibition halls are overflowing with visitors, many of Chinese origin. Groups of Chinese schoolchildren, apparently from the mainland, listen raptly to their teachers explain intricacies of the art on display. They must feel proud.

So, how did China change from being an active participant in the early phases of globalisation to a more or less isolated civilisation that closed its mind to foreign influences? Historians suggest that the process began some time under the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) when an emperor, taking the advice of mandarins, called an end to sea voyages. Till then China’s seafaring technology, which included innovations like the magnetic compass unknown yet to European explorers, was superior to that of Europeans. China in many ways was then the world’s leading civilisation.

The Chinese were not alone in shutting themselves off. The Tokugawa dynasty (1603-1867) did the same for Japan, mainly to ward off Christian influences on their culture. In the process they closed the Japanese mind to the world until they were deposed by the Meiji in the mid-19th century.

And India was never a major seafaring power. Hindu texts banned Brahmins and other upper castes from crossing the sea. Although outside the dominant castes and among non-Hindus there was a fair bit of sea travel and trade, most Indian rulers did not care for naval power and disdained ocean voyages for war, trade or exploration. All the while, European powers continued to develop their seafaring capabilities for exploration, trade as well as imperial expansion. The rest is history, from the 15th century to our present era.

China today has once again joined the world. Ever since the reformist Deng Xiaoping led the country away from Maoist insularity to a nation engaged in the economic sense with the rest of the world, China’s rise from the ashes of close-mindedness has been phenomenal. It is once again a leading power and asserts itself globally at every opportunity.

And there lies the rub. Although it is economically and culturally open to the world far more than ever, in this interconnected and technology hooked modern era it remains politically a woolly mammoth trying hard to manage the myriad forces let loose by the forces of that rapidly evolving technological advancement and economic interconnectedness.

Through its Confucius Institutes around the world and by placing opinion pieces by sympathetic intellectuals in global media, China’s leaders doggedly argue that growth based on Confucian social harmony is a superior form of political management than one founded on democratic dissent, chaotic as it so often seems in nations like India and the US. Alas, in an age of spreading challenges to authority and a growing sense of individual independence among the restless young, social harmony imposed by the diktat of a few is unlikely to remain feasible for long.

Openness can’t be partial or selective for long. China’s leaders would do well to read the tea leaves in the cup of their own history. The same goes for today’s Indian leaders, some of whom believe in an unexamined ancient wisdom that still has answers to all of life’s complexities.

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/just-graffiti/china-then-and-now-how-a-superpower-fell-then-rose-again-from-the-ashes-of-close-mindedness/

Busting Hindu terror and other myths

MINHAZ MERCHANT
Home minister Rajnath Singh ripped into the Congress in Parliament last Friday (July 31) when it functioned amidst chaos for a short while. He accused it of diluting India’s fight against Pakistan-bred terrorism. He charged the party with falsely invoking “Hindu terror”. Hafiz Saeed, leader of terrorist group Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), had even praised the Congress for using the phrase, Rajnath added.

Former home minister P Chidambaram was quick off the blocks. In a television interview the next day he denied that then home minister Sushilkumar Shinde had ever used the phrase “Hindu terror”.

Who is right?

Rajnath Singh.

The evidence is available in black and white.

The Hindu reported on January 20, 2013: “Taking on the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Sunday claimed that the two were promoting ‘Hindu terrorism’ through their training camps. Addressing the AICC session on the final day of the chintan shivir here, Shinde said investigations revealed that the BJP and the RSS were conducting training camps to spread terrorism.”

By denying on record that Shinde had invoked “Hindu terror”, Chidambaram was either being deliberately economical with the truth or had a memory lapse.

Shinde certainly knew what he’d said because he apologised for it. Again, The Hindu reported the apology in its edition dated February 21, 2013: “Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Wednesday expressed “regret” over his controversial ‘Hindu terror’ remark made in the Congress’ Jaipur conclave last month, a step aimed at pacifying a combative Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the crucial Budget session. In a statement, Shinde said his comments had created a misunderstanding. ‘It has been understood to mean that I was linking terrorism to a particular religion and was accusing certain political organisations of being involved in organising terror camps,’ he said. ‘I had no intention to link terror to any religion. There is no basis for suggesting that terror can be linked to organisations mentioned in my brief speech in Jaipur. Since controversy has been created on account of my statement, I am issuing this clarification and expressing regret to those who felt hurt by my statement. I will continue to perform my duties to the best of my ability to ensure harmony is maintained in the social fabric of India.'”

Chidambaram’s memory lapse is understandable. The Congress has lately become terrified of being branded anti-Hindu. Rahul Gandhi trekked to Kedarnath temple three months ago to establish his “Hindu” credentials. It was tokenism but showed that the Congress had belatedly realised the electoral consequences of seeming to be a party of minority appeasement (which of course it is).

More to the point: Does “Hindu terror” exist? And how does it stack up against Islamist terror which, as we know, does exist? What, too, about the homilies all parties routinely mouth that terror has no religion?

Soon after Shinde’s tirade about “Hindu terror” I wrote this in The Times of India:

Home minister and leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Sushilkumar Shinde has given Pakistan another excuse to justify terror-equivalence with India: We run terror camps but so do you. We did 26/11 but you did Samjhauta.

The matter of “Hindu terror” must not be allowed to slip into the crevices of our collective subconscious till another outrageous statement is made on the subject. How serious an issue is Hindu/Saffron terror? Examine the question rationally. Four specific terror attacks over the past several decades can plausibly be traced back to extremist Hindutva elements who were former members of the Sangh parivar: Malegaon (2006), Samjhauta Express (2007), Mecca Masjid (2007) and Ajmer Sharif (2007). All these cases are sub-judice. The accused have remained in jail for several years. Contradictory evidence implicating the banned SIMI and Indian Mujahideen (IM) has been produced by, among others, the United Nations.

The total number of fatalities in these four attacks was 127. In contrast, a single jihadist-underworld terror serial bomb attack in Mumbai in March 1993 killed 257 people. Just as terror can’t be identified with a religion, the number of terror strikes and fatalities is no basis for comparison of different ideological shades of terrorism. All terrorism is obviously bad – whether it results in one fatality or a hundred. But it is important to underline that unproven “Hindu terror” attacks have been just four over several decades. All four occurred between 2006 and 2007. There were none before. There have been none since.

The attempt to seek equivalence between Islamist and Hindu terror is as fraudulent as Pakistan’s constant attempt to achieve “terror-equivalence” with India on the basis of one unproven Samjhauta Express terror attack by Indians against dozens by Pakistani state-sponsored terrorists on India.

Bottom line: Terror truly has no religion. LTTE terrorists in Sri Lanka were Hindus. Irgun terrorists in Israel were Jews. Red Army Faction terrorists in Germany were Christians. The difference lies in degree and scale. Islamist terror is a global scourge. The others are or were local. Treating them on par is blinding oneself to reality. Chidambaram knows that. And yet the code of selective Omerta that guides the Congress will not allow him to say it.

Book Review: The Idea of Justice: Amartya Sen

Saradindu Mukherji

This book review is jointly authored by Saradindu Mukherji and Shoumendu Mukherji.

The Nobel laureate in economics makes tremendous use of history, contemporary politics and value systems, with a generous mixing of moral judgement in The Idea of Justice (Amartya Sen, Allen Lane, 2009), like many of his publications and public lectures. This review primarily takes up only such matters.

The idea of justice—the origin of the very concept, its tumultuous growth battling the impediments on its  forward journey, its mechanism, and the debate over its effectiveness, is a formidable intellectual challenge, and so is Sen’s critique of Rawls, regarded perhaps rightly as one of the most renowned philosophers of our times.  There is a very interesting discussion of the ‘Rational Choice Theory’ and ‘Sustainable Development and the Environment’ and more admirable is the way Sen makes them intelligible to the uninitiated. Throughout the course of history, the idea of justice has been conceived and administered in varying ways depending on the socio-cultural ethos and political systems that prevail in various countries.

The Supreme Court of India has opined, ‘justice may be social, moral or legal, meaning between two contesting parties in a court of law, as per the record of the case based on evidence after a fair and impartial trial. Further, it has been held that to secure the ‘ends of justice’ is to act in the best interest of both parties within the four corners of the statute preserving the balance and sanctity of the Constitutional and statutory  rights of the individual and public at large.’

However, in the present times, the idea of justice as propounded by the Supreme Court of India has often been nixed by the belief that ‘justice must be seen to be done (R v Thames (1974) 1 WLR 1371) ’ at the cost of ‘natural justice i.e. the right to a fair trial’ in order to please our society at large where perception often triumphs over ‘realism’.

An adverse public opinion is manufactured against the accused prematurely on sub-judice matters without weighing the evidence. This precedent is not only irresponsible but damaging to the very root of our legal framework. ‘Rule of law’ has two aspects—substantive and procedural, where each element complements the other. Compromising on any one over the other owing to exigency or for ‘playing to the galleries’ critically scuttles the ‘due process of law’ and results in‘rule of law’ becoming nugatory.

Be that as it may at the operational level, Sen offers a cross-country scenario of the concept of justice, spread well over many centuries in this work. We note with much optimism his plea for  clearly remediable injustices around us which we want to eliminate’ ( p.vii).

Since Amartya Sen functions in an European-American intellectual milieu,  the Western backdrop that  he provides does not satisfactorily explain the symbiotic relationship between a  more accountable system of  governance, i.e, ‘Tudor Revolution of Government’(Elton), the rise of opposition in the late 16th Century British Parliament, the Puritan contribution to the emergence of a democratic spirit, the struggle between the King and the Parliament culminating in the Glorious Revolution(1688), the Bill of Rights (1689), and the  growing acceptance  of  some foundational ideas like   ‘rule of law’ , ‘equality of all before law’, origins of the ideas of state engineering, and similar other related attributes.

The absence of such political developments in his sketch leaves a gap, and more so, because he has Magna Carta (1215), as one of his starting points followed in due course by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

If Hobbes was rejecting the liberal prescription (p.308-309, fn), it might be explained more by the fact that Cromwell had come to power by then, and England was ruled (1649-60) without a king. The English politics and social relations had undergone much transformation from the time when he first wrote in 1640, and then came out his Leviathan (1651).

The last time an English King had been executed was in 1649, and the ‘Commonwealth’ was in power  in a very chaotic situation, while the ‘true Levellers’ or Diggers were trying to practice some sort of ‘communism’ so to say. It is no coincidence that Winstanley’s ‘Law of Freedom’ was published in 1651 too. We may note here, how the missing dimension has been so deftly sketched in Christopher Hill’s path-breaking ‘World Turned Upside Down’. Theorising, as we may think, does not necessarily emerge out of contemplation, but often because of the ground reality.

While tracing the uneven course of the evolution of ‘redressable   justice’, one would have expected a mention of the Court of Star Chamber, and the role of the Habeas Corpus Act, if  not the Code of Justinian,  and the basics of Roman law and Grotius (1583-1645), famous for his seminal idea of the modernization of jurisprudence, having ‘freed natural law from its ancient alliance with theology’.Similarly, the Stuart legislations against the havoc-creating ‘enclosures’, another practical measure to provide justice to the deprived, fail to find a mention.

Methodologically and logically, Sen trips occasionally as on Bruno, Akbar’s Din-i-Ilahi or in the case of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides seeking shelter in Saladin’s (12th century) Cairo (p.333), to draw an untenable conclusion regarding Islamic intolerance and a certain mind set .

Sen is oblivious of the account of the severe sufferings of the Coptic Christians of Egypt as described by the Muslim historian of Copts, Taqiy-al-Din –al Maqrizi in Saladin’s time. One may however, remember that much of the adoration of Saladin in Europe owes its origin to Sir Walter Scott and the visit of William II of Prussia to Saladin’s tomb, and the latter being just another dimension of the Berlin-Baghdad railway project as a component of the Pan-Islamic project.

While one would easily overlook   Sen’s confusion over a date (p.1) regarding Hastings ‘commanding’ East India Company, when Burke tore him apart  in the House of Commons  in May 1789  (Hasting’s ‘command’ in India had ended by 1785), it would be difficult to explain his inconsistency in uniformly applying standards, when he applies it to others . ‘Can there be a satisfactory understanding of ethics in general and of justice in particular that confines its attention to some people and not others, presuming-if only implicitly-that some people are relevant while others simply are not ?’(p117)

We would take up two scenarios, to see if Sen himself follows the standard he lays down.

As one who had ancestral roots in Dhaka (Bangladesh), and happens to be a frequent visitor to Bangladesh, how is it that Sen misses out the implication of the Enemy/ Vested Property Act which has further crippled the long-suffering Hindu minorities there? See the path-breaking research by A.Barkat, S, Zaman, A.Poddar, M.Ullah, KA Hussain, and S.K. Sen Gupta, ‘An Inquiry into Causes and Consequences of Deprivation’, Dhaka, 2000.

It would be difficult to believe that Sen is really oblivious of this. But if he has deliberately pushed it under the carpet, then the question arises: does it reveal his concern for justice or is it his abetment/approval of injustice?  And mind you, Sen has a chapter on ‘Minority Rights and Inclusive Priorities’ (pp352-354).

As Sen asks in another context, ‘So what is fairness ? This foundational idea can be given shape in various ways, but central to it must be a demand to avoid a bias in our evaluations, taking note of the interests and concerns of all stakeholders as well, and in particular, the need to avoid being influenced by our respective vested interests, or by our personal priorities or eccentricities or prejudices’(p.54). 

Amartya Sen may set himself againstthe standard he so eloquently sets for others, and ask himself where does he really stand? While he applauds the role of  ‘impartial spectator,’ where would lesser mortals place his ‘close friend,’ a ‘visionary’ named Mahbub-ul-Haq, the former Pakistani Minister of Finance and Planning (1982-1988), (p.226) when Pakistan-sponsored terrorism was at its height in Indian Punjab. The question begging an answer: was Haq despite his ‘human development approach’ an ‘impartial spectator’   or had he ever shown any normal humanitarian concern for the hapless and persecuted religious minorities as a Cabinet Minister? There is a concept of ‘guilt by association’, and one would like to know who all could be guilty of this?

Sen’s studied reticence on this issue raises uncomfortable questions in light of the fact that another Nobel laureate, V.S. Naipaul has described Pakistan  as a ‘criminal enterprise’ while the rest of the world, including we Indians, look at it as a rogue and a failed state. And once again, we experienced that at Gurdaspur day before yesterday.

This not only takes us to another contested domain that Sen Takes up, the  so-called ‘Asian values’ and its homogenizing reach in the context of what Chris Patten had once observed. For example, one can compare and contrast  India’s handling of the tribal people as in our north eastern states and that of  Malaysia regarding its non-Muslim Orang Aslis or the treatment of the Buddhist Jummas (commonly called the Chakmas) in the Chittagong Hill Tracts by the Pakistani/Bangladeshi regimes.

India is tolerant and accommodative of other religions because of  its 80 per cent Hindu population, and has consistently sustained a system of parliamentary democracy and much higher growth of its religious minorities unlike so many other countries in Asia, and particularly in its immediate neighbourhood. Is it not a fact that Islamic countries, exceptions apart, even with some rudimentary trappings of a ‘westernized’ state, are  rapidly erasing even that window-dressing, and  sliding back into the Middle ages from which they had barely emerged?

The omission of Gladstone (1809-98: who was Britain’s Prime Minister four times), whose bold experiments in practical liberalism (both in Ireland and India, including the abortive Illbert Bill (1883), all reflecting his concern for some justice even in a colonial situation, his  sympathetic views on the Armenian genocide by the Sunni Ottomans/Caliphate  looks galling, especially when Sen has space for a lot of unsubstantiated history and Bollywood.

There is still lesser explanation for ignoring Cornwallis’s Criminal Code (1790,1793) in India, which provided  a rule for guidance of Muslim law officers, that in a murder case, they were to be guided by the intention of the murderer. This was a remarkable contribution. Indeed, Cornwallis did more. Amputation of limbs (Islamic shariat) was replaced by temporary hard labour or fine. He further stopped the practice of withdrawal or seeking compensation by an heir and relative of the deceased in a murder case. Despite the Permanent Settlement (1793), this was a remarkable contribution by the British colonial masters.

Sen not only overlooks that but also completely ignores another piece of legislation by Cornwallis (1793), that non-Muslims could give testimony against Muslims in criminal cases previously prohibited in Islamic law. Sen’s studied reticence on the indefensible, true specimens of an intolerant theological code, is easy to understand in light of his admiration for the Islamic rulers of India, and their legacies. Powerful, ‘vested interest’ which he theoretically, and otherwise considers a serious impediment in the administration of justice but casually smothers  in his own analysis and public lectures.

Sen discusses  nyaya, niti and matsya nyaya. While Manu-smriti comes under the scanner,  Yajnavalka  Smriti is not mentioned, and so are the Mosiac law and Hamburabi’s Code. He overlooks that despite Manu’s code, there were many transgressions of it without  inviting severe punishment,  as one finds in the effectiveness of the women’s right to inheritance in the Dayabhaga system which prevailed in his native Bengal, as distinct from mitakshara, that prevailed elsewhere in India.

Amartya Sen however,  concurs with those who have characterized Manu with ‘some modicum of veracity, as a fascist law-giver’ (p.20). Knowing Sen’s known habit of unjustified Hindu-bashing, it does not come as  a surprise that Sen comes to the defence of Islamo-fascists so consistently.  He remains oblivious to what Tagore, in his own version, one of the influences on him, uses the term    ‘Bhagwan Manu.’ Tagore cites his advice to treat reward as poison and accept calumny as a divine nectar (Letter to Pulin Bihari Sen, 20.Nov 1937), when the controversy over Jana Gana Mana was raked up by some. Sen might do well to remember that the polytheististic tradition of the ‘unbelievers’ has no concept of a fatwa  and mass murder as in other ‘sacred traditions’ he rationalizes so often.

It would be revealing to take a look at what all he writes and smothers in‘Minority Rights and Inclusive Priorities,’ in claiming how Gandhi had emphasized ‘inclusiveness’. But we know that it was no sudden invention in 20thcentury India, and that is why an overwhelmingly Hindu-Buddhist-Jain-Pagan Bharata, with its unsullied tradition of ‘inclusiveness’ provided shelter, safety and honor to the persecuted refugee victims -the Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians throughout the ages.

Amartya Sen again ascribes too much to some vague  ‘public discussion that followed the attacks, to which both Muslims and non-Muslims contributed richly’ in the context of ‘a murderous attack in Mumbai in November 2008 by terrorists from a Muslim background (and almost certainly of Pakistani ancestry), that the much-feared reaction against Indian Muslims did not emerge’.

Sen is wrong in suggesting that Hindus routinely attack Muslims whereas in reality, the latter indulges in their periodic genocidal attacks on the Hindus. Immediately after the partition of India, while Pakistan, true to its ideologues (including Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, now being sanitized as ‘Makers of Modern India’ by India’s ‘eminent’ and ‘secular’ historians) succeeded in eliminating its Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian population.

In fact, Hindus suffer in various parts of the world at the hands of the Muslims including England, over issues ranging from Palestine to Ayodhya. Would Sen recollect the pogrom of the Hindus in East Pakistan (I964) over the Hazratbal theft in Kashmir, which affected his ancestral city of Dhaka? Would he remember what the Pakistanis and their local collaborators did to three million people (90 per cent of the victims being Hindus) during the Bangladesh war of liberation? And if Hindus had routinely done what the Muslims did, how would Sen with his command over statistics, explain the  decline of Hindu population  in India while the population of Muslims continues to increase?

As for the  public discussion between Hindus and Muslims, one wishes it really works in Pakistan, Bangladesh and our own Jammu and Kashmir, so that the Hindus have some sense of safety and  security, and Hindu refugees from the Kashmir valley now refugees in their own land, were restored their landed property and honor.

We all might wonder as to why it did not work when Gandhi and Nehru were at the helm, and had to deal with the ‘constitutionalist’ and ‘Maker of Modern India’- that mass murderer, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Well, Sen and his band of  ‘secularists’ know in the heart of hearts that it was the infinite patience of Hindus and their inherent tolerance of ‘others’ that prevented a retaliation. Anyway, Sen might still do a tremendous service to humanity if he can work out similar dialogues between the ‘Holy warriors’ of the ISIS and the persecuted Yezidis, Shias and Christians in the areas under the new Caliphate.

In paying a rare compliment to the Hindus, while saying that India with  more than 80 per cent Hindus has a Sikh prime minister and a ruling party president of ‘Christian background’ and a Muslim President (and having had several Muslim presidents in the past), with ‘none of the three principal governing positions of the country being occupied by non-Hindus-while ‘there was no noticeable sense  of discontent’ ( p.353), Sen smothers a very important dimension: he refrains from saying that the then president of Congress, India’s ruling party, is just not a Christian, but also an Italian. Was he deliberately pushing it under the carpet ? Would Italy accept a Hindu Indian in similar position or if Bobby aka Piyush Jindal, in his Hindu persona would have been a  serious political aspirant in America?

After all, Indian National Congress of yore had its first President, a converted Christian, (Womesh Chandra Banerjee), and so have been various Cabinet Ministers and Defence Service Chiefs after independence. No Hindu ever opposed or criticized that. So to have a Christian president of the ruling party was no cause of concern for the Hindus. To have a non-Hindu Defence Service Chief or Chairman of the UPSC, or a Chief Election Commissioner besides Cabinet Ministers in Central government or States, Governors or important Ambassadors  are not unknown to the Hindus of India. How many Hindus in similar positions would Amartya Sen find in his beloved Pakistan and Bangladesh? What justice does Sen talk of and for whom, is often difficult to fathom.

Yet, one  must admit, that Sen reveals, in this rarest of rare passage, a streak of atavism perhaps, and shows that he has not totally forgotten some of the basic ideas that Kshitimohan Sen (his grandfather) had put down so evocatively in his important study on Hinduism. Be that as it may, Sen is back with his campaign of disinformation after a few paragraphs. He goes on to talk of ‘the organized riots in Gujarat in 2002, in which close 2000 people, mostly Muslims died…’ (p.354). Sen had completed this book seven years after that incident, and now, and even six years after that, no one has found a shred of evidence to say that it was organized, unless of course Sen has his own Court of Enquiry. Sen does not mention the roasting alive of the 58 Hindu pilgrims in the railway coach at Godhra which led to the   subsequent violence. How could he smother the all-important cause, and yet inflate the figures?  This is Amartya Sen at his best.

‘According to the statement of the GOI, the community-wise break-up of the victims in Gujarat is as follows: 790 Muslims killed, 254 Hindus killed, 2,500 wounded and 223 gone missing. In a state with 88 per cent Hindus and 10 per cent Muslims, ruled by an allegedly pro-Hindu government, the casualty figures do not fit into the pattern of a genocide or pogrom of a particular community.’   

This had been pointed out (27 Nov 2007, The Indian Express) earlier. Sen might well ask this to himself if this is fairness. Has it ever happened in Pakistan or Bangladesh, where so many members of the majority community have suffered at the hands of the minority or their security agencies? Did it ever happen in Hitler’s Germany when the Jews had taken the lives of German Christians? Sen’s sympathies are obvious and with such a worldview, can he really pontificate on the  idea of Justice?

Among various  other issues, he  misses out the practice of meting out justice to the so-called war-criminals, and the politics of vested interests and blatant partiality that go into its operation, or the growing practice of seeking apologies by the perpetrators of grievous wrongs to many traumatized communities as in the case of the aborigines of Australia or the Americas.

Sen says, ‘There is something very appealing in the idea that every person anywhere in the world, irrespective of citizenship, residence, race, class, caste or community, has some basic rights which should respect’. (p.355). Let the readers find out if he has really taken us any forward in this direction ?

If one is dealing with historical experiences and wants to be fair, and has something original to contribute to the concept of Justice and its dispensation, too much of an ideological preference could be a serious disqualification, and the whole purpose of any theorizing and the claim of  taking a moral stance  might be defeated. Moreover, with   arbitrary and selective examples, unlike that of Sir Vidia Naipaul and Nirad Chandra Chaudhury, there are all-too visible  gaps in Sen’s highly readable but extremely biased narrative.

Many of us by now, are made to wonder like that  character  in a famous Tagore play who  finally exclaimed, ‘I really don’t know what is justice and what is injustice’ (‘nyaya anayaya Janine Janine’).

But then, as Richard II (Shakespeare) profoundly pontificated: ‘Not all the water in the rough rude sea can wash the balm from an anointed king’ !

Shoumendu Mukherji, graduated from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata and at present is an advocate at the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court.

Views in this article are the authors’ personal opinions and do not reflect those of the organizations they are affiliated to.

Dr Saradindu Mukherji is an academic and historian, He was a Charles Wallace Visiting Fellow, department of Politics, Centre for Indian Studies, University of Hull. He was a former Member of ICSSR, He retired as Head of Department of History, Hansraj College, University of Delhi. He is currently a Member, Indian Council for Historical Research.

http://indiafacts.co.in/book-review-idea-justice-amartya-sen/

Journalism of Courage or Journalism of Communalism?

The Indian Express published a report titled ‘Why kin of Muslim half of Gujarat’s martyr duo turned Hindu‘ on 17 July 2015. The headline reveals that the report’s focus is not on the heroism of the “Gujarat’s martyr duo” but on the subsequent conversion of some relatives of one of the martyrs. One wonders why the attention is not on the martyrs’ heroism but on the relatives’ conversions.Is it because the conversions were from Islam to Hinduism and not the other way round? The report begins thus:

On July 1, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel reached a three-storey, 18th-century watchtower in the Muslim-dominated Old Ahmedabad area of Jamalpur to inaugurate a museum in honour of two Gujarati icons of communal harmony. On the same day in 1946, Vasantrao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani had staved off hordes of rioters during the annual rath yatra from Jamalpur’s Jagannath Temple — the former protecting Muslims, the latter saving Hindus — with both losing their lives”.

The first sentence says that Jamalpur is “Muslim-dominated” but the second says that Vasantrao Hegishte lost his life in Jamalpur while “protecting Muslims”. One wonders why Muslims needed such protection in a “Muslim-dominated” area. Is it because Muslims must be portrayed as victims even though the annual rath yatra of Hindus is one of the most peaceful festivals in the world? Or is it because the real killers of Vasantrao Hegishte should not be named in the interest of secularism?

Then, the report goes to say,

Looking on as Patel opened Bandhutva Smarak, housing personal effects, such as sandals, and glasses, and paper clippings and jail records related to the two heroes, were the family members of Hegishte. And the Lakhanis? They had long gone, shifting to the US and Canada after being targeted in subsequent riots”.

The last sentence states that the Muslim martyr’s relatives have shifted to the US and Canada “after being targeted in subsequent riots”. We wonder how such riot-affected people were able to muster the wherewithal to emigrate to countries which are far richer than their native country. Or is The Indian Express not permitted to ask obvious questions when it comes to ‘minority’ victimhood? And next,

his nephew Rashmin, formerly known as Rashid, told The Indian Express over phone from the US: “We decided to change to Hindu names, change our religion and hide our relation with Rajab Ali Lakhani.” Wary of disclosing details of his whereabouts, Rashmin said that among those who stayed back was Lakhani’s younger brother Ramzan Ali — but he too converted after his family was attacked in their home in Naranpura, and changed his name to Ramanlal.

So, the speaker spoke to the newspaper “over phone” and was “wary of disclosing details of his whereabouts”. Of course, the Indian Express prints it as gospel truth without bothering to ascertain the veracity of his statement. Moreover, if his conversion to Hinduism was only out of fear, why doesn’t The Indian Express ask him the reason for continuing to use the Hindu name “Rashmin” even in the US?The paper also does not ask him whom he is hiding his “relation with Rajab Ali Lakhani” from — surely not from Hindus (since Rajab Ali Lakhani had died “saving Hindus”)?

Later, the The Indian Express report says,

Rashmin (76), the son of Rajab Ali’s elder brother Vazir Ali, converted to Hinduism in 1965, married a Hindu from Bhavnagar, and moved to the US. “There were more than three attempts to kill the Lakhanis in the 1969 and 1977 riots, because of which we decided to change,” he said.

This is some rich reasoning. If the speaker had “converted to Hinduism in 1965”, how can he say that they decided to change because of “1969 and 1977 riots”? I guess The Indian Express is not allowed to ask counter questions if any speaker makes allegations against Hindus. The report continues,

Subhan, the eldest son of Ramzan Ali Lakhani alias Ramanlal, lives in Canada and goes by the name of Sam Lakhani, but has not formally converted. Speaking over phone, he said: “The 1969 riots were almost like the pre-partition riots, nearly 10,000 Muslims got killed. Our family had to go from one place to another to live safely. In my case, I already left for the US but my brothers and sisters had to change their names. Lakhani added that he had wanted his parents to move with him to Canada “for safety”. “They came in 1986, but could not stand the cold and went back,” he said, also wary of discussing details of the family’s location.

This triggers the following avalanche of questions:

First, as the speaker has the Muslim name “Subhan”, one wonders whether his dead father — Ramzan Ali Lakhani — had really converted to Hinduism.

Second, this is the second instance (earlier Rashmin, now Subhan) of the report quoting a person “speaking over phone” and “also wary of discussing details of the family’s location.”

Third, when the speaker equated the 1969 riots with the partition riots and then said that “nearly 10,000 Muslims got killed”, why doesn’t The Indian Expressask him whether he believes that Muslims were the only ones who got killed in the partition riots?

Fourth, why doesn’t The Indian Express ask the speaker how he came to know that “nearly 10,000 Muslims got killed” in the 1969 riots when he had “already left for the US” by that time (and now lives in Canada)?

Fifth, if the speaker’s father had converted to Hinduism but still the speaker “had wanted his parents to move with him to Canada ‘for safety’”, is the man admitting that Hindus are not safe in India?

Lastly, The Indian Express did not ask the speaker why he is “wary of discussing details of the family’s location” when the family is not wary of staying at that location, having come back from Canada. Indeed, there are so many holes in the report that one wonders if The Indian Express is a newspaper or a fishing net. It is the misfortune of the Indian nation that its mainstream media plays to the gallery of certain communities which know how to milk victimhood knowing fully well that such stories are either hyped or fake.

http://indiafacts.co.in/journalism-courage-journalism-communalism/

RSS promoting ‘Tulsi’ among Muslims as ‘Jannati jhaad’

Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), an affiliate of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has been planting “Tulsi” (Holy Basil) at the houses of Muslims terming it as ‘Jannati jhaad’ (heavenly bush).

MRM coordinator Merajidhwaj Singh claimed that Tulsi, which is considered a revered plant by Hindus, has been mention in the Holy Quran as ‘Jannati jhaad’.

Claiming that not only Tulsi, but Peepal has also been mentioned in holy texts, Singh said MRM is making efforts for the plantation of the said tree’s saplings near mosques, graveyards, shrines and at parks in Muslim dominated areas.

During Ramazan, MRM had launched a special drive to ensure that maximum number of Muslims either plant Tulsi saplings at their houses or Peepal tree at parks, graveyards or dargahs.

A local coordinator of MRM in Rouhelkhand, Maulana Mohammad Islam Sultani, claimed that he has distributed as many as 1,500 Tulsi saplings to Muslims. “I have been quoting holy texts to the brothers of the community about what has been said about the plant which otherwise also has medicinal properties as it keeps several disease away from the home where Tulsi plant has been planted,” Sultani said.

Sultani, who had also planted a Peepal sapling during the World Environment Day at Sultan Shah’s Shrine in Bareilly said, “The sad part of the society is that even trees and plants have been divided in the name of religion.”

MRM coordinator in Moradabad confirmed that a similar plantation drive is going on in Moradabad division.

Imam Maulana Mohd Javed of Noori Mosque at Krishna Nagar, where a stall would be set up to distribute Tulsi saplings, said Tulsi has been mentioned as ‘Rehan’ in holy texts. “I have myself convinced the people about it being mentioned in the holy texts and got the texts translated in Urdu to make them understand easily,” said Javed adding that “Tulsi is mentioned as Rehan in the 27th chapter of Holy Quran. Similarly, it is also mentioned in Hadith from Bukhari Sharif and Tirmidhi.”

However, another cleric Maulana Habeeb Haider said that even though there is mention of many trees in the Holy Quran, it is hard to reach to a conclusion that Tulsi has been specifically mentioned.

The article originally appeared on The Time of India