Sanskrit and the Secularists

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in Dublin last month when Irish students welcomed him with Sanskrit shlokas seems to have raised the hackles of our so called “secularists” with several going out of their way to say “We are secular, Mr. PM and we also love Sanskrit”.

Ms. Seema Mustafa wrote a long letter to prove that secularists are not Sanskrit-baiters. While she may have written out of true anguish and she probably also likes the language, the history, of secularist opposition to Sanskrit does not back her claims.

One merely has to recount the numerous petitions filed over the decades even when Sanskrit was an elective subject to see the kind of lobbying for the inclusion of Persian and Arabic among other options alongside Sanskrit to in the name of secularism.

Secular History of support for Sanskrit

One of the major decisions in this regard came in 1994 (way before Narendra Modi sprang on the scene) in which the Court completely refuted the claims that teaching Sanskrit was against secularism because Arabic or Persian were not accorded a similar status in the educational system.

The verdict was delivered by Justice Kuldip Singh and Justice B. L. Hansaria in response to a writ petition filed by Santosh Kumar and others in 1989 against the Secretary, Ministry of Human Resources Development and Government of India. The court said that “a secular state is not hostile to religion but holds itself neutral in matters of religion” (para 16). It quoted from the Sanskrit Commission’s Report to show that Sanskrit was a binding and unifying force in India. Paragraphs 19 and 20 of the judgment spelt out the views of the Court in no uncertain terms”.

Another petition was filed by Aruna Roy and others, whose secularism was never doubted, (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 98 of 2002) again objecting to the inclusion of Sanskrit in the education system.

Beyond education, the self-professed secularists tried every trick to block Sanskrit gaining a place of prominence in the polity. For example, Kannada sociologist M.N. Srinivas coined a term Sanskritisation, which denotes the acquiring of Brahminical or Hindu ethos by the so called lower castes. The use of Sanskrit here implicitly implied that Sanskrit was a language of higher echelons of the society only (read Brahmins) and lower castes acquired it to gain recognition. Otherwise, the moving to higher echelons of the society by lower strata is generally denoted by the term ‘upwardly mobile’ class.

When Karnataka government proposed to set up Sanskrit University, most of the secularists sprang up to oppose it. When the bill on Sanskrit University came up for debate in the state Legislative Council in 2009, the opposition moved a bill asking for the setting up of the Urdu University alongside it.

Congress member V S Ugrappa and Janata Dal (Secular) leader M C Nanaiah, the parties of which secular credentials are never questioned by ‘progressive’ intellectuals, argued that Sanskrit University could be set up then ‘there should be nothing in the way’ to set up Urdu one.

Clearly, intelligentsia’s idea of secularism was that Urdu, Arabic and Persian should be placed along and in equal proportion to Sanskrit.

Opposition to setting up of Sanskrit university was not limited in Karnataka alone. When the proposal to establish an university at Kalady, the birthplace  of Adi Shankaracharya, in Kerala came up, Marxist Communist Party opposed it vehemently. It is because of their opposition that the setting up of this university got delayed and it was only after Shankaracharya of Sringeri Mutt donated Rs 1 crore towards it, that the then Chief Minister K. Karunakaran took some steps in this direction.

Even when this university was established, the Marxist lobby usurped it leading to the appointment of Prof. K.N.Panicker as its Vice Chancellor. He established a Chair in the name of E M S Namboodiripad in the university, who had opposed its idea from the start, and brought the university to such a pass that an expert study group sent by the UGC recommended urgent and drastic measures to mend it.

It is pertinent here to point out what Tamil writer and Joe D’ Cruz said recently of status of Sanskrit in India. According to The Hindu, he said,

“People have been misguided for 60 years about Sanskrit and have been kept away from learning it. There was a notion that Sanskrit was the preserve of the higher echelons of the society and it was the language of the Hindu texts.”

D’Cruz is a Christian and a Sahitya Akademi award winner. He is also president of the Samskrita Bharati, Uttara Tamil Nadu and it is common knowledge that Samskrita Bharati is a RSS-affiliated organisation. But it proved my point that one who wants to nurture one’s love for Samskrita has to go to RSS or similar organisation – because Secularists never loved Sanskrit!

(Author: Devidas Deshpande, Journalist and Translator. He lives in Pune.)


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…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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Muslims in Nepal also demand a Hindu Rashtra.

Muslims in Nepal demand a ‘Hindu State’ to protect Islam.
PTI | Kathmandu | Aug 13, 2015:: In an unusual move, Muslims in Nepal have backed the ongoing campaign for reinstating the country’s erstwhile Hindu identity, saying they are more “secure” under a Hindu state than under a secular Constitution.

“It is to protect Islam. I have opened my mouth demanding that Nepal be declared a Hindu state in order to protect my own religion,” said Amjad Ali, chairman of the Rapti Muslim Society, who is also involved in the protest programmes demanding a Hindu state in Nepal.

Read details in the link:

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.

Hindu Temples and Government Control – Where is Transparency & Accountability ?

How is the Government accountable to you for the Hindu Temples it controls ?

How much do you know of how the Government spends the money you donate to Hindu Temples ?

Namma Devasthana, a group focused on reinstating the Hindu temples as center of social and cultural exchange, held a press conference yesterday addressing the need for transparency and accountability in the temple administration.

Nagarajan of the Temple Worshipper’s Society (Chennai), Advocate Kiran Bettadapur and K Gopinath, Professor IISC addressed the audience.

The writ petition filed by Swami Dayanand Saraswati of Arsha Vidya Peetha in the Supreme Court in 2012 is  significant as it challenges the government legislations  under which Hindu temples are managed. The petition  requests the Supreme Court to null the power of the State to appoint Executive officers, appoint trustees, levy fee on the temples and mismanage temple funds.

Nagarajan highlighted the draconian laws encouraging the government to allocate to itself alone the right to manage temples. The government’s failure to address the audit objections over temple assets and expenditures is a fact that needs to be taken cognizance by the Supreme Court immediately.

Nagarajan also mentioned that Supreme Court needs to clear the duration for which the Executive Officers are appointed in the temples.

Advocate and member of Karnataka State Bar Council Kiran Bettadapur pointed out that the government needs to have a structured route to exit temple administration.

“Temples cannot be indefinitely managed. The government needs to specify an exit policy also.”

Kiran stated the shortcomings in the present temple management scenario:

The temple jewels for example can be sold after permission is granted by the Executive officer, who takes the weight of the ornament and states its value as per temple records. Such practices ultimately lead to the misappropriation of funds by government officials.

To maintain the temples an Architectural Committee is present. It however has only 3 members to look after 35,000 temples which is impossible. Hence threat to the upkeep of temples and temple architecture dating back to centuries.

The government is acting as the judge as well as the jury, as all personnel trusted with temple management are government appointed including auditors and charted accountants, which is against good governance.

RTIs filed against the Karnataka government are not replied to citing reference to other cases where a state government refused to reply to RTIs, strongly indicating lack of transparency.

K Gopinath stated that there has to be a time frame within which the government can enter temple administration, rectify the mistake and exit.

The Karnataka Endowments Department (Muzrai) is endowed with the upkeep of about 35,000 temples. However, the government’s interference in religious affairs under the pretext of being secular has not been justified. To add to the issue, temple funds are transferred to government coffers, and audit fees are levied on the temples as administrative charges.

Voicing his deep concern over the current state of Hindu temples, Kiran Bettadapur said that this could be merely a glimpse into what could be a huge scam, relieving the temples in South India of their wealth, by shrewd malpractice.

Strong audit measures need to be introduced, to keep a check on the wealth and expenditures associated with temples. Regulatory mechanisms not contrary to the secular principles of the constitution need to be urgently invoked.

The Movement to Free Hindu Temples has come a long way since these baby steps last year and earlier this year.  The manner in which the Puri Jagannath Temple Brahma Paribartan was mismanaged is a reminder of how widespread the malaise is. It will however have to assume the scale of a Mass Movement so extraordinary pressure is brought to bear on the Governments and the Courts to address this constitutional assault on Hindu Temples.

Bihar and UP assembly polls could see the rise of new mini-Jinnahs

R Jagannathan

The elections to the Bihar assembly this year and Uttar Pradesh 18 months later will have major implications for Muslim communal politics in post-independence India. These two elections will decide if there is space for the emergence of new mini-Jinnahs to compete for Muslim votes against the allure of so-called “secular parties.”

Bihar and UP are where the bulk of Indian Muslims live, and their relative poverty skews the entire picture in official statistics of Muslim deprivation relative to Hindus. Muslims outside these two states (and West Bengal and Assam, where Bangladeshi Muslims skew the picture again) are not far behind their Hindu counterparts is education and socio-economic status.

The “secular” parties – Congress, the Communists, and various regional parties in states – have so far walked away with the lion’s share of the Muslim vote purely by offering them “protection” against “communalists”. Thus while the other castes and communities offered votes for economic benefits, the Muslims got “protection” for votes, but little economic benefits. Despite the failure of this protection from Bhagalpur to Nandigram to Muzaffarnagar to Assam – where anti-Muslim riots happened in “secular” zones run by “secular” parties – the “secular” parties still assume that Muslims should be happy with the leaky umbrella of protection given to them.

Bihar and Uttar Pradesh could change all that. In Bihar, the only logic of the “secular” alliance between Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar is the old protection logic – which allows them to reap the Muslim vote en bloc. But in the recent legislative council elections, it was the BJP-led alliance that fared better. Worse, three of the four Muslim candidates put up by the Lalu-Nitish alliance lost. While there is no point presuming that this is what will play out in the more important assembly elections due in three months’ time, one question is important to raise: are all these attempts to harvest the Muslim vote ensuring a reverse consolidation of the Hindu vote?

The Bihar assembly elections will thus decide whether opportunistic “secular” alliances of the Lalu-Nitish kind can survive in the future when Muslims realise they have been taken for a ride.

On the other hand, the Uttar Pradesh election will decide whether Muslims will invest hopes in the new mini-Jinnahs now arriving on the scene from multiple states: the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) of Asaduddin Owaisi, the Assam United Democratic Front of Badruddin Ajmal, the old Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) of Kerala and scores of mini-Muslim parties. Of the rising mini-Jinnahs, Owaisi’s AIMIM bids fair to become the next polariser, having already announced a plan to contest the next Uttar Pradesh elections on its own.

AIMIM has already met with some success in Maharashtra (especially in Nanded, Aurangabad and Mumbai), and Owaisi is now taking his roadshow to Uttar Pradesh, putting the fear of god into the traditional “secularists”. The BJP will be hoping that AIMIM will split the Muslim vote in UP, giving it the benefit of a divided opposition and a counter consolidation of the non-minority vote – as had happened in 2014.

While the BJP could be the short-term beneficiary of a split minority vote, in the long run we are likely to see the rise of a Muslim party (or parties) that will have to be reckoned with on its own terms. This is what happened in Kerala, where the IUML is part of every UDF coalition based on a consolidation of the Muslim vote. The CPI(M) is more of a Hindu party in Kerala.

Owaisi is, however, playing his cards smartly. He is trying to call his party a a Muslim-Dalit-OBC alliance, taking a leaf out of the same community arithmetic logic that Congress, SP and BSP have tried and benefited from in the past. When the Congress was a factor in UP, its vote combo was upper castes, plus Dalits and Muslims. With Mulayam Singh, the winning arithmetic was Yadavs and Muslims. With Mayawati‘s BSP, it was upper castes plus Dalits, with a minor share of the Muslim vote.

Owaisi is trying the Mayawati combo minus upper caste Hindus, who will anyway not vote for AIMIM. If Mayawati’s vote base of Dalits crumbles, Owaisi can get a chunk of this vote – as he did in Aurangabad. However, the BJP under Narendra Modi has also had some success with Dalits, and so the chances are we will be up against an attempted Muslim consolidation in UP under Owaisi – assuming he gets traction between now and mid-2017 when assembly elections are due.

The loss of the Muslim candidates in the Bihar council elections will have dealt a blow to the Lalu-Nitish kind of “secular” combos. Muslims in neighbouring UP may well wonder what they have to lose by picking a party that at least is manned by Muslims. We will know what Bohar Muslims think by the end of this year.

The stage has been set for the rise of India’s next mini-Jinnahs, with incalculable consequences for communal polarisation, this time precipitated by Muslim politicians, thanks to the failure of “secular” politics of the past 68 years.


Deepak Sinha

While fringe elements make provocative remarks on religion, responsible and eminent citizens of the country have been doing no better in imagining conspiracies and slamming the Modi Government for its supposed inaction

Now that ample time has passed and the dust has settled on the controversial issue of treatment of the Christian community by the state, and its impact on the secular fabric of the country following retired Indian police officer Julio Francis Ribeiro’s anguished article in the media, it’s time to look at this important issue dispassionately and squarely.

One of our leading dailies published an Op-ed piece, a few months ago, on the treatment of the Christian community headlined “As a Christian, suddenly I am a stranger in my own country”, Mr Riberio wrote. As usual, the headline was just another act of mindless sensationalism that our media seems unable to avoid, since nowhere in that article has Mr. Riberio written those specific words. He has certainly implied, in no uncertain terms, that the Modi Government in a rather devious manner has “delivered a well- directed body blow” against the Christian community and reduced “them to being treated as non-Indians”.

No right-thinking citizen would disagree with his criticism of either the vandal attacks against the churches or some of the statements made by the more hardcore Hindutva fundamentalists. However condemnable these actions and statements, there is, unfortunately, little evidence for Mr Riberio to have jumped to the conclusions he has, more so, being a seasoned police officer that he used to be, unless of course, his remark was a deliberate attempt to tarnish the Modi Government.

One cannot help but point to the tragic case of the molestation of a nun in West Bengal. Opposition leaders, Modi-baiters, the West Bengal Government, mediapersons and church representatives had little hesitation in vociferously condemning the Hindutva lobby for that dastardly act. However, now that the alleged assailants have been arrested and have turned out to be illegal Bangladeshi migrants, not a word of apology has been extended by any of the detractors. Is this typical Indian behaviour or a deliberate conspiracy of silence? Add to this, the statements of some of the more privileged and eminent members of the community that needlessly fuelled this unseemly controversy.

The former Naval chief, Admiral Sushil Kumar, must have been fully aware of the resilience and experience of the Armed Forces in dealing with communal conflagrations of a far serious nature. And yet he chose to state that the military may be adversely impacted. Similarly, Justice Kurian Joseph is fortunate that he has the choice of attending the function he chooses to, unlike our servicemen along the border, of all faiths, who uncomplainingly go about their duty, regardless of circumstances. Sadly, by their actions and words, these eminent gentlemen have not done their community any favour and have only given a licence to fringe elements that make their livelihood from such controversies, to hit back with more of their venom.

The gentlemen have, however, raised a fundamental question regarding secularism, or the lack of it, which we need to squarely face. Our concept of secularism differs greatly from the manner in which it was originally interpreted by the Greek and the Roman philosophers and subsequent free-thinkers, who saw it as the principle of the separation of state and religion, in which the state was completely neutral on matters of belief or from the imposition by the Government of religion or religious practices upon its people. In our context, we officially adopted the 42nd Amendment to the Preamble to the Constitution only in 1976 and declared India a secular nation.

For example, in 1951, Parliament passed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act, which gave  State Governments the power to appoint managers to the boards of temples, in the name of more effective administration. In this manner, not only have  Governments and politicians usurped tens of thousands of acres of temple land but have also ensured that the donations by devotees are used not just for Hindu pilgrims or the upkeep of temples but for other purposes as well.

A prime example of this is the Tirumala Tirupati  Devasthanams Trust, from which reportedly more than 80 per cent of the collections go into the State’s coffers.The obvious questions it then raises is not only as to why does the functioning of minority religious establishments remain completely autonomous, but also why do their collections get treated differently? How can the church, for example, have a larger budget than our defence forces and yet not be accountable to our Government but to the Vatican?

Finally, the fundamental question we should be asking ourselves is: How fair is it to the majority religious community of  this country that the minority religious authorities occupy prime properties throughout the country just because the past invaders and colonisers forcibly seized them to establish their own religious institutions to proselytise and convert the ‘heathen’? We cannot run away from these issues.