Muslim invasion created Dalits and tribals in India, says RSS – India Today

Vijay Sonkar Shastri's book release function at NDMC Convention centre on September 7, 2014 in New Delhi

Where did caste originate?“The RSS … has been actively promoting a rewriting of Indian history and has largely rejected the historiography pursued by professional [Marxist] historians, accusing them of being anti-Hindu. After the BJP’s victory in Lok Sabha polls in May … the RSS … has undertaken a decade-long project to produce a version of Indian history based on the Puranas.” – India Today

Vijay Sonkar ShastriThe BJP’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has attributed the genesis of Dalits, tribals and other marginalised groups to Muslim invasion in medieval times.

Three RSS functionaries have reportedly expressed such views in forewords to three books – Hindu Charmakar Jati, Hindu Khatik Jati and Hindu Valmiki Jati – written by the BJP spokesman Vijay Sonkar Shastri and released recently by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

In his foreword, Bhaiyyaji Joshi, Bhagat’s Number Two in the RSS pecking order, reportedly says the ‘shudras‘ were never untouchables according to the Hindu scriptures. It was only after the “Islamic atrocities” during the medieval times that the untouchables, Dalits and Indian Muslims emerged.

“To violate Hindu swabhiman (dignity) of Chanwarvanshiya Kshatriyas, foreign invaders from Arab, Muslim rulers and beef-eaters, forced them to do abominable works like killing cows, skinning them and throwing their carcasses in deserted places. Foreign invaders thus created a caste of charma-karma (dealing with skin) by giving such works as punishment to proud Hindu prisoners,” he writes.

Suresh Soni, another senior RSS leader, wrote, “Dalits had their genesis during Turks, Muslims and Mughal eras. Today’s castes like Valmikis, Sudarshan, Majhabi Sikhs and their 624 sub-castes came into being as a result of atrocities against Brahmins and Kshatriyas during Medieval or Islamic age.”

The third foreword by Krishna Gopal of the RSS says, “In pre-historic and Vedic age, Khatik castes have been recognized as Brahmins who affected sacrifices. It may be noted that before the advent of Muslim invaders, there is no reference to rearing pigs in India. It was a vocation adopted by Hindus to defend their religion.”

The RSS, that was founded in 1925, has been actively promoting a rewriting of Indian history and has largely rejected the historiography pursued by professional [Marxist] historians, accusing them of being anti-Hindu.

After the BJP’s victory in Lok Sabha polls in May, a bullish Sangh, as the RSS is also called, has undertaken a decade-long project to produce a version of Indian history based on the Puranas.

The RSS has also been accused of trying to influence the school and university curriculum through the Union Human Resources Ministry whenever the BJP has been in power. – India Today, 22 September 2014

Hindus forced to pay the jizya tax.

Nothing Vedic in ‘Vedic Maths’ – C. K. Raju

C. K. Raju“Promoting the wrongly labelled ‘Vedic mathematics’ suppresses the mathematics that really does exist in the Vedas. For example, Yajurveda 17.2 elaborates on the decimal place value system (the basis of Indian algorithms) and some of those names for numbers are still in use…. That passage shows that the place value system extends back to Vedic times, and it was a late acquisition only in mathematically backward Europe.” – Dr C. K. Raju

Bharati Krishna TirthaIgnorant of tradition

Gujarat has made it compulsory for school students to read the texts of Dinanath Batra, endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to news reports, Mr. Batra has now proposed a non-governmental education commission which will Indianise education through, for instance, Vedic mathematics. The Minister for Education has also mentioned Vedic mathematics as part of her agenda.

One appreciates the desire of these people to work for Indian traditions. But where in the Vedas is “Vedic mathematics” to be found? Nowhere. Vedic mathematics has no relation whatsoever to the Vedas. It actually originates from a book misleadingly titled Vedic Mathematics by Bharati Krishna Tirtha. The book admits on its first page that its title is misleading and that the (elementary arithmetic) algorithms expounded in the book have nothing to do with the Vedas. This is repeated on p. xxxv: “Obviously these formulas are not to be found in the present recensions of Atharvaveda.” I have been pointing this out since 1998. Regrettably, the advocates of “Vedic mathematics,” though they claim to champion Indian tradition, are ignorant of the actual tradition in the Vedas. Second, they do not even know what is stated in the book — the real source of “Vedic mathematics.” Third, they are unaware of scholarly writing on the subject. When education policy is decided by such ignorant people, they only end up making a laughing-stock of themselves and the Vedas, and thus do a great disservice to the very tradition which they claim to champion.

Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-KhwārizmīEveryone learns how to add, subtract, multiply and divide in school. Why should we replace those algorithms with “Vedic mathematics”? Will that Indianise education? No. The standard arithmetic algorithms actually originated in India, where they were known by various names such as patiganita (slate arithmetic). However, the word “algorithm” comes from “algorithmus”: the Latinised name of al Khwarizmi of the 9th century House of Wisdom in Baghdad. He wrote an expository book on Indian arithmetic called Hisab al Hind. Gerbert d’Aurillac (later Pope Sylvester II), the leading European mathematician of the 10th century, imported these arithmetic techniques from the Umayyad Khilafat of Córdoba. He did so because the primitive Greek and Roman system of arithmetic (tied to the abacus), then prevailing in Europe, was no match for Indian arithmetic. However, accustomed to the abacus (on which he wrote a tome), Gerbert was perplexed by algorithms based on the place-value system, and foolishly got a special abacus (apices) constructed for these “Arabic numerals” in 976 CE. Hence the name “Arabic numerals” — because a learned pope amusingly thought there was some magic in the shape of the numerals which made arithmetic efficient.

Later, Florentine merchants realised that efficient Indian arithmetic algorithms conferred a competitive advantage in commerce. Fibonacci, who traded across Islamic Africa, translated al Khwarizmi’s work, as did many others, which is why they came to be known as algorithms. Eventually, after 600 years, Indian algorithms displaced the European abacus and were introduced in the Jesuit syllabus as “practical mathematics” circa 1570 by Christoph Clavius. These algorithms are found in many early Indian texts, such as the Patiganita of Sridhar or the Ganita Sara Sangraha of Mahavira, or the Lilavati of Bhaskara II. So, advocating Bhaskara II“Vedic mathematics” as a replacement for traditional Indian arithmetic is hardly an act of nationalism. On the contrary, it only shows ignorance of the history of mathematics. Spreading this ignorance among future generations will weaken the nation, not strengthen it.

The techniques of “Vedic mathematics” are designed for mental arithmetic, traditionally used by lower caste artisans such as carpenters or by people like Shakuntala Devi. There are many other such systems of mental arithmetic today. If that is what we intend to promote, we should first do a systematic comparison. We should also be honest and refrain from using the misleading label “Vedic” which is the main selling point of Bharati Krishna Tirtha’s system, and which attracts gullible people who infer value just from the wrapper.

Suppressing real mathematics

Promoting the wrongly labelled “Vedic mathematics” suppresses the mathematics that really does exist in the Vedas. For example, Yajurveda 17.2 elaborates on the decimal place value system (the basis of Indian algorithms) and some of those names for numbers are still in use, though terms such as arab (arbudam) have changed meaning. That passage shows that the place value system extends back to Vedic times, and it was a late acquisition only in mathematically backward Europe.

Likewise, the theory of permutations and combinations is built into the Vedic metre (and Indian music in general), as explained in various texts from Pingala’s Chandahsutra to Bhaskar’s Lilavati. The aksa sukta of the Rgveda gives a beautiful account of the game of dice, which is the foundation of the theory of probability. The romantic story of Nala and Damayanti in the Nala & DamayantiMahabharata further relates dice to sampling theory (to count the number of fruits in a tree).

More details are in my article on “Probability in Ancient India” available online and published in the Elsevier Handbook of the Philosophy of Statistics. However, all these scholarly efforts are jeopardised, for they too are viewed with suspicion.

We need to change the Western and colonial education system, especially with regard to mathematics. Traditional Indian ganita has much to offer in this process, but “Vedic mathematics” is definitely not the right way.

Wrong solutions like “Vedic mathematics” persist because an insecure political dispensation values the politically loyal over the learned who are loyal to the truth. (“Merit” apparently is important only in the context of reservations.) Such political processes are historically known to damage real traditions.

As I wrote over a decade ago in my book The Eleven Pictures of Time, those who attain or retain state power through religion are the worst enemies of that religion, whatever be the religion they claim to represent: Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism. – The Hindu, 3 September 2014

» C. K. Raju is the author of Cultural Foundations of Mathematics. He was professor of mathematics, and Editorial Fellow of the Project of History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture.

Vedic Mathematics

India is no communal tinderbox – Amish Tripathi

Amish Tripathi“According to the US Centers for Disease Control, in 2010 alone, there were over 30,000 gun-related deaths in the United States. That single year’s gun-related death toll in the US is more than twice the total number of deaths in all the religious riots in India cumulatively in the last 50 years.” – Amish Tripathi

I recently returned from an extended stay in the United States on a fellowship programme and I must at the outset state that the Americans are, by and large, a very friendly and sociable people.

The ones I met were also quite politically correct. Therefore, I was surprised by a question put forth by a concerned American: “Do you think there might have been some positive outcomes of European colonial rule in India, what with its mission of ‘a white man’s burden’, such as keeping Hindus and Muslims from annihilating each other?”

When confronted by my confounded look, the man asked: “But aren’t religious holocausts quite common in post-Independence India?”

That set me thinking. How did he get the impression that India is like Syria or Iraq? Honestly, though, one couldn’t blame him.

He reads Western press reports on India, written by clueless Western journalists — clueless because most of them haven’t bothered to learn an Indian language or live outside the bubble of anglicised-elite enclaves in India.

They frequently portray India as a communal tinderbox. These Western journalists garner their opinions with help from our elite English-language media, where secular as well as religious extremists have traditionally held a disproportionately loud voice: The former because they are insiders in this group and the latter because our English-language media loves a controversial copy.

Many of these secular-extremist journalists write searing articles on the massive religious violence in India. Words like ‘genocide’, ‘holocaust’ and ‘pogrom’ are bandied about freely.

The religious extremists, on the other hand, play up a sense of historical or communal hurt (depending on the religion of the target group) and relentlessly call for retribution.

Do these merchants of fear have a point? The corporate world has a dictum: In god we trust; for everything else, show me data. What do the numbers say about religious violence in India? Yes, we have had religious riots.

There have been human tragedies, no doubt about it. And we must learn how to crank up our administrative system to prevent these tragedies and to deliver speedy justice if they do occur.

Christopher ColumbusWe have had nearly 60 religious riots (incidents where more than five people have been killed) in India since the mid-1960s leading to a total death toll of over 13,000 (Source: Outlook).

I will repeat that they have been terrible tragedies. Also, in no manner do I mean to belittle the suffering of the victims of religious riots.

But were any of these riots holocausts, where millions have been killed? No.

A holocaust is what Adolf Hitler carried out in Germany (six million deaths in the 1940s), what Winston Churchill consciously precipitated in pre-Independence eastern-India (1.5 to 4 million deaths in the 1940s), the Partition riots (1 million deaths) or what Pakistan did in Bangladesh (1 to 3 million deaths in the 1970s) or what is happening in Syria right now (191,000 deaths and counting).

US Gun ShopThe Native American population was approximately 10 million in North America when Columbus famously landed. It was ultimately reduced to less than a million by the time the genocide stopped. Once again, without belittling the suffering of the victims of Indian religious riots, we need to be careful with the words we use.

Admittedly on an unrelated issue, according to the US Centers for Disease Control, in 2010 alone, there were over 30,000 gun-related deaths in the United States.

That single year’s gun-related death toll in the US is more than twice the total number of deaths in all the religious riots in India cumulatively in the last 50 years.

Now, I am not saying that everything is perfect in India. I am proud of my country, but pride should not blind us to our problems. There is indiscriminate killing taking place in India right now.

But it’s not happening due to religious violence. Five lakh female fetuses are illegally aborted annually in India ie 500,000 girls are killed in the womb every year.

This is 185,000% more than the annual deaths due to religious violence. Many more girl-children die from the systematic malnutrition that they are subjected to. Even when they grow up, Indian women suffer systemic harassment and violence.

It’s not just the government that oppresses them, but our entire society itself. If we want to save Indian lives, if we want to prevent a holocaust and gross injustice, this is where we need to focus. Across all religious/linguistic/caste/social segments, by far the most oppressed group in India today, is women.

It seems that scare-mongering about religion suits the purpose of our ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ extremists. I agree that religious differences are a problem; I would venture to add, it’s a global problem that the human species is grappling with.

But I seriously don’t think India is going to sink into a morass of religious violence. While some of our myriad communities may not be in perfect harmony with each other, we’ve learnt to co-exist, by and large, without resorting to mass violence.

For all the fearful words that are used to describe religious people in India, a vast majority of Indians are like you and me: Deeply religious, profoundly liberal and unwilling to kill for our faith.

The numbers prove that clearly. Sadly, we are not so non-violent when it comes to our girl-children and women.

If we truly love the idea of India, we should focus on the issue of women’s oppression, rather than attacking religion to assert our liberalism.

Sometimes, it’s better to let the data speak, rather than allowing fantastic prose to hog the limelight. You never know what agenda lies hidden beneath the prose. – Hindustan Times, September 12, 2014

» Amish Tripathi worked in the financial services industry before he became the best-selling author of the Shiva Trilogy and other books. Twitter: @authoramish

Protesting rape in Bangalore

What would Krishna say? – Gary Gutting

 Krishna & Arjuna

» The interviewee for this article is Prof Jonardon Ganeri, currently a visiting professor of philosophy at the non-sectarian New York University in Abu Dhabi and the author of “The Lost Age of Reason: Philosophy in Early Modern India 1450–1700.”

» The interviewer for this article is Prof Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the sectarian University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Indiana, and an editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. He is the author of, most recently, “Thinking the Impossible: French Philosophy Since 1960″ and writes regularly for The New York Times. This interview was conducted by email and edited. 

Gary Gutting: How might looking at Hinduism alter philosophical approaches to religion that take Christianity as their primary example?

Jonardon Ganeri: Taking Christianity as the exemplar of religion skews philosophical discussion towards attempts to solve, resolve or dissolve difficult philosophical puzzles inherent in monotheism: problems about God’s powers, goodness and knowledge; attempts to provide rational arguments for God’s existence; the problem of evil; and so on. Hindu philosophers have traditionally been far more interested in a quite different array of problems, especially questions about the nature of religious knowledge and religious language, initially arising from their concerns with the Veda as a sacred eternal text and as a source of ritual and moral law.

GG: Does this mean that Hinduism is a religion without God?

JG: Many Hindus believe in God, but not all in the same God: For some it is Vishnu, for others Shiva, for others again it is rather the Goddess. Some of the more important Hindu philosophers are atheists, arguing that no sacred religious text such as the Veda could be the word of God, since authorship, even divine authorship, implies the logical possibility of error. Whether believed in or not, a personal God does not figure prominently as the source of the idea of the divine, and instead non-theistic concepts of the divine prevail.

GG: What do you mean by “non-theistic” concepts of the divine?

JG: One such concept sees the text of the Veda as itself divine. Its language, on this view, has a structure that is prior to and isomorphic with the structure of the world and its grammar is complete (although parts may have been lost over the centuries). The divinity of the text inverts the order of priority between text and author: Now, at best, assignment of authorship is a cataloging device not the identification of origin. Recitation of the text is itself a religious act.

Another Hindu conception of the divine is that it is the essential reality in comparison to which all else is only concealing appearance. This is the concept one finds in the Upanishads. Philosophically the most important claim the Upanishads make is that the essence of each person is also the essence of all things’; the human self and brahman (the essential reality) are the same.

This identity claim leads to a third conception of the divine: that inwardness or interiority or subjectivity is itself a kind of divinity. On this view, religious practice is contemplative, taking time to turn one’s gaze inwards to find one’s real self; but — and this point is often missed — there is something strongly anti-individualistic in this practice of inwardness, since the deep self one discovers is the same self for all.

GG: Could you say something about the Hindu view of life after death? In particular, are Hindu philosophers able to make sense of the notion of reincarnation?

JG: Every religion has something to say about death and the afterlife, and hence engages with philosophical questions about the metaphysics of the self. While Christian philosophy of self tends to be limited to a single conception of self as immortal soul, Hindu philosophers have experimented with an astonishing range of accounts of self, some of which are at the cutting edge in contemporary philosophy of mind.

GG: Could you give an example?

JG: The self as an immaterial, immortal soul is consistent with the Hindu idea of survival through reincarnation. But some Hindu philosophers have concluded that mind and the mental must be embodied. If so, reincarnation requires that mental states must be able to be “multiply realized” in different physical states. This led to the idea, much later popular among analytic philosophers of mind, that the mental is a set of functions that operate through the body. Such an approach supports the idea that there is a place for the self within nature, that a self — even one that exists over time in different bodies — need be not a supernatural phenomenon.

GG: What sort of ethical guidance does Hinduism provide?

JG: One of the most important texts in the religious life of many Hindus is the Bhagavadgita, the Song of the Lord. The Gita is deeply philosophical, addressing in poetic, inspirational language a fundamental conundrum of human existence: What to do when one is pulled in different directions by different sorts of obligation, how to make hard choices. The hard choice faced by the protagonist Arjuna is whether to go to war against members of his own family, in violation of a universal duty not to kill; or to abstain, letting a wrong go unrighted and breaking a duty that is uniquely his. Lord Krishna counsels Arjuna with the philosophical advice that the moral motivation for action should never consist in expected outcomes, that one should act but not base one’s path of action on one’s wants or needs.

GG: This sounds rather like the Kantian view that morality means doing what’s right regardless of the consequences.

JG: There are ongoing debates about what sort of moral philosophy Krishna is proposing — Amartya Sen has claimed that he’s a quasi-Kantian but others disagree. More important than this scholarly debate, though, is what the text tells us about how to live: that living is hard, and doing the right thing is difficult; that leading a moral life is at best an enigmatic and ambiguous project. No escape route from moral conflict by imitating the actions of a morally perfect individual is on offer here. Krishna, unlike Christ, the Buddha or Mohammed is not portrayed as morally perfect, and indeed the philosopher Bimal Matilal very aptly describes him as the “devious divinity.” We can but try our best in treacherous circumstances.

GG: How does the notion of “karma” fit into the picture?

JG: Let me be clear. The idea of karma is that every human action has consequences, but it is not at all the claim that every human action is itself a consequence. So the idea of karma does not imply a fatalistic outlook on life, according to which one’s past deeds predetermine all one’s actions. The essence of the theory is simply that one’s life will be better if one acts in ways that are ethical, and it will be worse if one acts in ways that are unethical.

A claim like that can be justified in many different ways. Buddhism, for example, tends to give it a strictly causal interpretation (bad actions make bad things happen). But I think that within Hinduism, karma is more like what Kant called a postulate of practical reason, something one does well to believe in and act according to (for Kant, belief in God was a practical postulate of this sort).

GG: How does Hinduism regard other religions (for example, as teaching falsehoods, as worthy alternative ways, as partial insights into its fuller truth)?

JG: The essence of Hinduism is that it has no essence. What defines Hinduism and sets it apart from other major religions is its polycentricity, its admission of multiple centers of belief and practice, with a consequent absence of any single structure of theological or liturgical power. Unlike Christianity, Buddhism or Islam, there is no one single canonical text — the Bible, the Dialogues of the Buddha, the Quran — that serves as a fundamental axis of hermeneutical or doctrinal endeavor, recording the words of a foundational religious teacher. (The Veda is only the earliest in a diverse corpus of Hindu texts.) Hinduism is a banyan tree, in the shade of whose canopy, supported by not one but many trunks, a great diversity of thought and action is sustained.

GG.: Would Hinduism require rejecting the existence of the God worshiped by Christians, Jews or Muslims?

JG: No, it wouldn’t. To the extent that Hindus worship one God, they tend to be henotheists, that is, worshiping their God but not denying the existence of others (“every individual worships some God,” not “some God is worshipped by every individual”). The henotheistic attitude can accept the worship of the Abrahamic God as another practice of the same kind as the worship of Vishnu or Shiva (and Vaishnavism and Shaivism are practically different religions under the catchall rubric “Hinduism”).

Without a center, there can be no periphery either, and so Hinduism’s approach to other religions tends to be incorporationist. In practice this can imply a disrespect for the otherness of non-Hindu religious traditions, and in particular of their ability to challenge or call into question Hindu beliefs and practices. The positive side is that there is in Hinduism a long heritage of tolerance of dissent and difference.

One explanation of this tolerance of difference is that religious texts are often not viewed as making truth claims, which might then easily contradict one another. Instead, they are seen as devices through which one achieves self transformation. Reading a religious text, taking it to heart, appreciating it, is a transformative experience, and in the transformed state one might well become aware that the claims of the text would, were they taken literally, be false. So religious texts are seen in Hinduism as “Trojan texts” (like the Trojan horse, but breaking through mental walls in disguise). Such texts enter the mind of the reader and help constitute the self.

The Hindu attitude to the Bible or the Quran is the same, meaning that the sorts of disagreements that arise from literalist readings of the texts tend not to arise.

GG: What ultimate good does Hinduism promise those who follow it, and what is the path to attaining this good?

JG: The claim is that there are three pathways, of equal merit, leading in their own way to liberation. Hindu philosophers have employed a good deal of logical skill in their definitions of liberation. To cut a long story short, for some it is a state defined as the endless but not beginingless absence of pain; others characterize it as a state of bliss. The three pathways are the path of knowledge, the path of religious performance and the path of devotion. The path of knowledge requires philosophical reflection, that of religious performances various rituals and good deeds, and that of devotion worship and service, often of a particular deity such as Krishna.

GG: Could you say a bit more about the path of knowledge and its relation to philosophy?

JG: Knowledge can liberate because epistemic error is the primary source of anguish, and knowledge is an antidote to error. I might err, for example, if I believe that I only need to satisfy my current desires in order to be happy. The antidote is the knowledge that the satisfaction of one desire serves only to generate another.

According to the Nyaya philosopher Vatsyayana, this is why philosophy is important. Doing philosophy is the way we cultivate our epistemic skills, learning to tell sound doxastic practices from bogus ones, and the cultivation of epistemic skills is what stops the merry-go-round between cognitive error and mental distress. So it isn’t that philosophy and religion are not distinct, but that there is a meta-theory about their relationship.

GG: The liberation you’ve described seems to be a matter of escaping from the cares of this world. Doesn’t this lead to a lack of interest in social and political action to make this world better?

JG: The great narrative texts of Hinduism are the two epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These epics are drawn on as resources in thinking about ethical conduct; forms of just society; and the possibility of various kinds of political and social agency. They are vast polycentric texts, and are read as such by Hindus. One of the important virtues of these epics is that they give voice to a range of participants within Hinduism that tend to go unheard: women, the disenfranchised, the outsider, the migrant. They provide these groups with important models for social and political intervention. That’s one reason they have always been very popular works within the Hindu diaspora.

The mirror image of the idea that liberation consists in the absence of distress is that a free society consists in the absence of injustice; thus the removal of injustice, rather than the creation of a perfect or ideal society, is the target of political action. Just as the absence of distress is a minimal condition compatible with many different kinds of human well-being (we are back to the theme of polycentricism), so the absence of injustice is compatible with many different types of well-ordered community or society.

GG: How do you respond to the charge that Hinduism has supported the injustices of the caste system in India?

JG: I think it is important to see that Hinduism contains within itself the philosophical resources to sustain an internal critique of reprehensible and unjust social practices that have sometimes emerged in Hindu societies. The Upanishadic idea that all selves are equal, and one with brahman, for example, can be drawn on to challenge the system of caste. There are thus forms of rational self-criticism that the diverse riches of Hindu philosophy enable, and an individual’s social identity as a Hindu is something to be actively fashioned rather than merely inherited. – The New York Times, 3 August 2014

 » The views expressed in this interview article belong to the respective doctors of philosophy only.

Rawalpindi Temple Demolition: Pakistani Hindus seek redress – Sandeep Datta

Valmik Mandir, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif is overshadowed by the army.“Hindus already face insecurity, kidnapping for ransom and forced conversions of their daughters in Pakistan. If they were relocated, their woes would compound since non-Hindus were already the least tolerant towards them.” – Sandeep Datta

As Pakistani authorities are all set to raze a 79-year-old temple in Rawalpindi, anger and disappointment prevail among the country’s Hindu minority that is seeking protection and freedom to practise their religion in an Islamic state.

Hindus have been living in Rawalpindi for over a century and the 1935-built Maharishi Valmik Swamiji Mandir in the Gracy Lines area of the Chaklala cantonment holds major significance as it enables them to worship and conduct religious festivities. Its entrance is decorated with Pakistani flags, a sign of the Hindu minorities’ patriotism and love for the country where they were born and grew up.

When notice to demolish such an old temple was issued July 18, a sense of anger, fear, and panic gripped not just the over 20,000 Hindus of Rawalpindi and neighbouring Islamabad but also the two million Hindus – a dwindling community – living across Pakistan, a nation of 180 million people.

The temple is to be razed to make way for an educational and housing complex. Officials have assured the Hindus they would build a new temple wherever the residents were relocated, “even if it costs Rs. 2 million, a Dawn report said recently.

Valmiki with Kusa and LavaFearing that they might lose the temple as well as their homes, the area’s Hindus filed a petition with the civil court and were granted a stay order till Aug 21. But the order provides them temporary relief as they can live in the area only until Sep 13.

“The mandir is considered to be the home of the lord. Every human has an emotional attachment to his religious places. Valuing such feelings, it shouldn’t be demolished,” a Hindu college student in Rawalpindi, who did not wish to be identified for fear of retaliation, told IANS in an e-mail communication.

A Lahore-based Hindu intellectual, requesting similar anonymity, contended the Valmik temple is the Hindus’ sacred place and used for religious practices. “The temple should be respected like any other religious community’s sacred place is. Everyone should be free to perform their religious practices in their sacred places.”

As many Hindus expressed inability to speak to the media for security concerns, some Muslim intellectuals spoke up on their behalf.

Lahore-based journalist Raza Wazir felt the demolition of the temple symbolizes “a trend in Pakistan where the space for religious plurality and tolerance of different beliefs is fast shrinking”.

It is indicative of a change in the attitude of the authorities as well as the active members of society who “no longer consider it their duty to care for faiths other than Islam”, Wazir told IANS in an email, adding: “This is surely a bad sign for the progress of Pakistan’s democratic culture.”

“Unless and until Pakistan treats its minorities at par with its Muslim citizens it cannot hope to be at peace with itself and its neighbours,” Wazir said.

Maharishi Valmik Swamiji Mandir in the Gracy Lines area of the Chaklala Cantonment in RawalpindiAt the time of partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, many of Rawalpindi’s Hindus had opted to put up at their roots due to emotional bonding instead of migrating to India.

“They are today concerned as, despite their loyalty shown to the country, they are not being accepted like other citizens. Hindus are worried about the existing state of affairs as they feel unsafe despite being granted citizens’ rights under the Pakistani constitution like others,” Muhammad Akbar Notezai, a Pakistan-based journalist, told IANS in an e-mail interview.

The temple has been providing a shelter to homeless Hindus and is a “symbol of unity” of Hindus living there. Demolishing it means “bringing an end to their unity as well and compounding the woes of the already persecuted homeless Hindus,” Notezai said.

He said the Hindus already face insecurity, kidnapping for ransom and forced conversions of their daughters in Pakistan. If they were relocated, their woes would compound since non-Hindus were already the least tolerant towards them.

“We must not forget the temple in Rawalpindi has been providing a shelter to homeless Hindus and has been a sign of unity for Hindus living here … demolishing it means ending their unity as well and compounding the woes of the already persecuted homeless Hindus.”

Article 25 (1) of the Pakistani constitution says all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law. “Like Muslims, Hindus are also equal citizens of Pakistan, and their lives, sacred places and property must also be protected,” Notezai added. – Business Standard, 5 September 2014

» Sandeep Datta can be contacted at sandeep.d@ians.in

Ashok Chand and his children in RawalpindiAshok Chand is the father of three children with learning difficulties. He says: “We are being mentally tortured by certain officers. To put pressure on us, sometimes they cut off our water, or threaten to cut off electricity. We don’t want to get in the way of the army, because the army has protected us for so many years.” – BBC

Why I love India – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“I realized that in India an intensive, dedicated and essential inner search for what is truly true has been made since time immemorial. The findings of this search are startling and comforting to all of humanity.” — Maria Wirth

India has undoubtedly a lot of problems. She has a huge population and comparatively little space for it. Many many people live in extremely difficult and poor circumstances, their only concern being how to earn enough money to feed their families. There are people who massively exploit the country for their selfish benefit. There are also people who have nothing good to say about India though they live in relatively comfortable circumstances. They give the impression as if they rather would be somewhere else, like in London or America. I have lived in Europe for 30 years. I also have travelled in almost 40 countries in the Americas, North Africa and Asia before coming to India. And yet, of all the countries I visited, I clearly love India the most. I once even dreamt that in front of me there was a thick, three-dimensional map of India. Looking at it my heart expanded and I felt great love. Still dreaming I was surprised that one can love a country so much.

It was, however, not love at first sight. After my first visit during my studies, I supposedly even said, “Never again India”, my mother claimed. I had come back to Germany weak from a stomach upset. Only on my second visit – intended as a short stopover that lasts meanwhile 33 years – India showed me what amazing treasure she hides under her noisy and often challenging surface.

I realized that in India an intensive, dedicated and essential inner search for what is truly true has been made since time immemorial. The findings of this search are startling and comforting to all of humanity and corroborated by modern nuclear physics:

‘Beneath’ every appearance in this universe, including our own person, there is the same ‘Real Presence’ (or whatever one wants to call the formless nameable) – living, loving, indestructible, mighty, infinite. To uncover it is the purpose of life and its fulfillment.

Every country has good and bad people. But India has also wise and enlightened people, far more than any other place, and they make India special – a country of light (Bharat) in spite of the apparent darkness. May the Light illumine the intellect of all…. – Maria Wirth Blog, 23 January 2013

» Maria Wirth is German and came to India for a holiday after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University. She decided to stay and has been here 33 years.

“After seeing your action plan, Ganga will not be cleaned even after 200 years,” says Justice Thakur – Bhadra Sinha

Poisoned fish in the Ganga

Why The Modi Govt Is Going Slow: Restoring the holy river to its past glory had remained on the government’s backburner as removing the dirt would have hurt the vote-bank of around 400 million Indians who live in the river basin. – Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, August 14, 2014

Modi's promise to clean the Ganga

Lady Journalist“In its affidavit, the Narendra Modi government said it was committed to depolluting the river, which was an election promise and has recently been deemed national priority. It also said a group of professionals from the IITs have been asked to finalise the plan by the end of the year. … The government has said it is committed to its pre-poll promise of making the river which passes through 29 major cities, 23 small cities and 48 towns, free from pollution.” – Bhadra Sinha

Uma Bharti is the Union Cabinet Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga RejuvenationThe Supreme Court asked the Centre on Wednesday  for a PowerPoint presentation within three weeks on a stage-wise strategy to clean up the Ganga, saying the government’s “bureaucratic plan” may take 200 years to accomplish the task.

“Please try that the next generation is able to see the river in its original form. We don’t know whether we will see it or not,” said a bench headed by Justice T.S. Thakur after studying the government’s latest affidavit.

Rivers merging into the Ganga“After seeing your action plan, it seems Ganga will not be cleaned even after 200 years. Evaluate the dream project you have to take steps to restore Ganga to its pristine glory.”

In its affidavit, the Narendra Modi government said it was committed to depolluting the river, which was an election promise and has recently been deemed national priority. It also said a group of professionals from the IITs have been asked to finalise the plan by the end of the year.

The bench said it was not concerned about the financial assistance coming from other countries but was worried how the common people will be explained about the proposal for proceeding with project of cleaning the river.

“We don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of committees etc. But common man expects to know how the cleaning Ganga process will emerge. They should at least know how the government is proceeding.

Over Rs. 20,000 crore has been spent since 1985 when the Clean Ganga mission was launched. The goal, however, remains unachieved.

“You have given a very bureaucratic kind of explanation. We want to see it in a layman’s language as to how you are proceeding with the project,” the bench told solicitor general Ranjit Kumar after perusing an affidavit filed by Uma Bharti’s ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation.

The apex court, which has been monitoring the cleaning process, will next hear the 29-year-old public interest litigation filed by advocate MC Mehta on September 24.

The bench also asked the Centre to explain what steps it had taken to preserve the 135-km stretch of the river from Gangotri downstream, notified as an eco-sensitive zone by the Union government in December 2013.

Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar informed the court how the government had received World Bank funds and financial and technical aid from Japan to implement various projects. At this, the bench said it wasn’t keen to know the source of funds.

“If you want us to enforce some directions for removal of polluting industries or ask the local bodies not taking steps to prevent pollution, to act, we will certainly issue the legal process,” the court said.

The 2,500-km long Ganga, which originates in the Himalayas, is considered the holiest of rivers by Hindus.

The government has said it is committed to its pre-poll promise of making the river which passes through 29 major cities, 23 small cities and 48 towns, free from pollution. In its affidavit, the Centre said, “it accords a status of national priority to the rejuvenation of river Ganga and the basic framework to achieve this national priority consists of evolving suitable strategies and action points in several thrust areas.”

It said maintaining ecological flow in the river, abatement and mitigation of various types of pollution in it, restoring ecological sanctity, creating awareness about the conservation of river and ensuring people’s participation in this process are some of the thrust areas.

“The achievements of these objectives entail multi-institutional, multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral approach,” the affidavit said. – Hindustan Times (with PTI inputs), 3 September 2014

» Bhadra Sinha is a journalist specializing in legal affairs and is currently working as Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times in New Delhi. She is a mother of two daughters and also a trained Bharatnatyam dancer who had learnt the art under renowned dancer Yamini Krishnamurthy.

Ganga Facts

Ganga Facts

Ganga Compares

See also

  1. Read: Ganga cleaning begins; toxin sensors installed
  2. Read: Unholy mess: Cleaning up the Ganga
  3. Read: Cleaning one of the world’s dirtiest rivers is a tough task
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