PM Modi’s visit to Sabarimala will hopefully end the woes of the shrine – Rajeev Srinivasan

Ayyappan Temple at Sabarimala

Rajeev Srinivasan“The PM’s visit to Sabarimala should create an awareness of the problems faced, and perhaps it will lead to the dissolution of the Devaswom Board, just as that other white elephant, the Planning Commission was disbanded. That would be not a day too soon. Kerala’s temples deserve the right to manage themselves without busybodies from government interfering in them.” – Rajeev Srinivasan

Swami AyyappanThe hill abode of Sri Ayyappan in the Western Ghats has become one of the most-visited temples in India, and it is in the list of places where the most places converge in the world (Source: The Economist, 2013). Unfortunately, it is also a testament to the incompetence and uncaring attitude of the Indian state, because pilgrims suffer greatly if they wish to visit.

Therefore I am delighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may visit the shrine this year, according to G. Ananthakrishnan (“Sabarimala on PM radar”) in The Telegraph, as it may force the authorities to improve the critically deficient infrastructure that they could easily upgrade, but won’t. It is also a metaphor for what appears to be active official hostility to Hindu pilgrims.

Pilgrims wait to climb the 18 steps at SabarimalaI know because I just went to Sabarimala for Deepavali. I have done the pilgrimage five or six times over many years, and can testify first-hand as to how it has deteriorated over time. My very first pilgrimage was when I was 17, and at that time there were no permanent settlements on the summit of the hill, where the shrine is. People only went there during the season (November to January) and for a few days at the beginning of every Malayalam month.

The main difference is the number of pilgrims visiting, which has grown exponentially, as it is an attractive, albeit difficult, trip, and the worship of Ayyappa has grown dramatically in the southern states. Then, I walked alone up the hill through rough paths, and I encountered only a handful of people who were going down the hill. When I went to the summit, I could pray for as long as I wanted in front of the deity’s tiny abode.

A few days ago, there were thousands of pilgrims at the summit, and I encountered hundreds returning down the arduous climb. During the season the numbers swell to hundreds of thousands of black-clad visitors, as the total number over the truncated period comes to over 30 million (which is the entire population of Kerala, to give some perspective).

Unfortunately, this tsunami of pilgrims has overwhelmed the carrying capacity of the area, and it makes the strenuous climb far more difficult than it needs to be. For, from the Pamba River staging area where vehicles park, it is a vertiginous climb up a few thousand feet through dense tropical forest to the small plateau where the shrine is. It is hard on the feet (we climbed barefoot up the granite and concrete path), on the heart (every year a few people have cardiac arrest), and on your system in general (there are only a dozen or so toilets on this path).

Once you get up to the plateau, things don’t get any better. Often, in peak-season, you have to wait for up to 10-12 hours in line in concrete sheds with corrugated-iron sheeting as roofs, which gets stiflingly hot on sunny days. Accommodation availability is utterly minimal: many sleep in these very sheds. Toilets, bathrooms, a clean place to sleep, decent food to eat, medical care—all are scarce.

The amount of plastic trash around the place is startling: bottles, bags. There are feral pigs – yes, wild pigs with mean-looking fangs – rooting in the food waste and human waste, and they add their droppings to the mess of mud and paper and flowers and plastic.

And there have been several stampedes in the past, which obviously is a problem of poor organisation and crowd management. (Tirupati, with an equally large number of pilgrims, has figured out crowd control; there is no reason why this cannot be attempted in Sabarimala too.)

This is no way to run a holy place. Nor any way to treat poor pilgrims who come from far away. I once met a barefoot pilgrim who was a Sri Lankan-origin investment banker in London, but many are ordinary folks from villages in interior Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh. They come, black-clad and bearded after 41 days of penance, carrying on their heads the twin coconuts filled with ghee that they will use for ablutions. These are the believers, that vast and invisible substratum of India that Dharampal once mentioned: they follow ancient practices of pilgrimage to holy spots, ignoring the cities and other distractions. This is eternal India, sanatana dharma.

Hiuen Tsang / XuanzangYou get a glimpse of this true India when you finally reach the sanctum with your aching and weary body, your only thoughts those about Ayyappa. Strangely, when you try to get your micro-second glimpse of the presiding deity before you are shoved forward by the press of those behind you, you tend to forget all the hassles. Because it is a point of singular power, and it has been so for millennia: historian Lokesh Chandra notes that it was once a temple to both Shiva and the Avalokiteswara Padmapani (the Bodhisattva of Compassion) simultaneously, as described by the Buddhist monk Hiuen Tsang (Xuanzang) who visited some 1,400 years ago and considered it already an ancient temple. (See my old article on its history here.)

The criminal neglect of the temple is mostly due to state hostility and partly to sheer incompetence. Kerala alternatively has Communist-led and Congress-led governments, which for practical purposes means a Communist/Muslim coalition or a Christian/Muslim coalition. The Hindu vote is fragmented and divided, to the extent that the BJP is yet to have a single MP from the state, although O. Rajagopal almost unseated Shashi Tharoor in Trivandrum last May. Modi appeals to the OBC Ezhavas (the mainstay of the Communists) and to the SC Pulayas; and this may lead to some electoral realignments, and that is surely part of his calculations.

There is a monstrous entity called the ‘Devaswom Board’ that controls all Hindu temples (and note please: only Hindu temples, as Christian and Muslim places of worship are entirely free of control or even audit or tax. I read a ruling by an Income Tax appellate court that Hinduism is a way of life, not a religion, and therefore Hindu temples are not tax-exempt!)

In fact, in an allegedly secular state, there should be separation of ‘church’ and ‘state’, that is, the government should not interfere in religion. That is true for Christians and Muslims: the State leaves them alone to do whatever they want with their churches and mosques. But in the case of Hindus, the government expropriates whatever Hindu temples have. The Devaswom Board is a violation of the constitutional principles of equality before the law and freedom of religion.

This is the principal reason Hindu temples are in trouble in Kerala, as the Devaswom Board, with atheists and Communists often as board members, acts as a mechanism to commingle the revenues of temples with government revenue. In other words, the Devaswom Board, and thus the Kerala government, steal the money that pilgrims donate to Sabarimala (and other large temples like Guruvayur). No more than 5 percent of this is spent on upkeep and maintenance and infrastructure development in the big temples; the rest is swallowed by the state treasury.

Many of the smaller temples under Devaswom control are closing because there is no money spent on them at all (I read a report quoting the Travancore Manual that were some 10,000 temples in Travancore a hundred years ago; while today there are fewer than 1,500). This verges on extinction.

Temples are torn down for ‘development’. For instance, the 1,800 year-old Parthasarathy Temple in Aranmula is slated for severe downgrading for an unnecessary airport project there which is basically a land-grab. Dozens of temples were torn down to create Cochin’s airport. In the 1950s, a planter tried to burn down the Sabarimala shrine to grab the forest land around it. All this is simply abominable.

Narendra Modi greets Ganga DeviA visit by the Prime Minister should shine the spotlight on this unsavory aspect of what is quite simply apartheid against Hindus. In addition, he will see first-hand how his idea of a Swachh Bharat has a long way to go: unlike most temples in Kerala, where the abundance of water, and related habits, ensure cleanliness, poor Sabarimala is the epitome of unsanitary conditions.

The PM’s visit should create an awareness of the problems faced, and perhaps it will lead to the dissolution of the Devaswom Board, just as that other white elephant, the Planning Commission was disbanded. That would be not a day too soon. Kerala’s temples deserve the right to manage themselves without busybodies from government interfering in them.

If the PM were to visit during the season, the difficulty in ensuring security will mean disruption for pilgrims, especially if he were to make the full trek up and down the hill, which, he, as a physically fit individual, should be able to do, unlike all other PMs so far. Still, that would be a small price to pay for the possible improvements it might bring. – FirstPost, 24 October 2014

Cross crossed-out!Socio-political history of Sabarimala – Ashok Chowgule

There is a socio-political history that needs to be mentioned about Sabrimala, which would indicate the civilisational importance of the temple. From Wikipedia, we can read: “In 1950, a fire broke out which destroyed the entire temple and it had to be reconstructed. According to the official enquiry report submitted by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, K. Kesava Menon, some Christian fundamentalists committed the arson.”

This was preceded by attempts of the Christian churches to grab properties on the way to the hill, erect crosses and shrines. The objective was to block the path to the temple and so prevent worship at the site. The local RSS units (at the time this was the only mass based Hindu organisation working at the grassroot level—VHP, of which I am a senior office bearer, was formed in 1964 by the RSS) had to mount a protest against this effort, some of which had to be done in a violent way. This was successful, and yet another pilgrimage shrine was kept free for the Hindus to be able to worship in the future.

What Wikipedia does not mention is that the vandals were instigated by the Christian churches, and DIG Kesava Menon has given names of various people involved. None of them were prosecuted.

Rajeev Srinivasan, the author of the above article, does mention the vandalism when he says: “In the 1950s, a planter tried to burn down the Sabarimala shrine to grab the forest land around it.” I recognise he did not dwell on it, so that the attention to the main point, relating to the present, is not diluted.

» Rajeev Srinivasan is a popular columnist from Tiruvananthapuram. His daytime job is that of a consultant in the software industry. He blogs at Shadow Warrior here.

Pilgrims at Sabarimala

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Deepavali: The lamps in true light – Swami Tejomayananda

Gods venerate Mahalakshmi

Swami Tejomayananda“Diwali is the day when we harvest the results of our hard work blessed with wealth by Mother Lakshmi. We pray to her with gratitude and ask the gracious Divine Mother to shower Her blessings in abundance for the coming year, give us the intelligence to use our wealth in the right manner and give us the heart to share it generously with our fellow beings.” – Swami Tejomayananda

Lakshman, Rama & SitaIn India, festivals are not only known for the celebrations and festivities, but also for their spiritual significance, inspiring us to raise the standard of our life. Rather than merely exhausting ourselves physically and mentally, they purify the mind, enabling us to face life with more enthusiasm.

And with Diwali here, let us take a closer look at the great significance it has.

Diwali is a contraction of the word “Deepavali” which means a row of lights or a billion lights. As you know, all festivals in India have special social, cultural and religious significance. And most of the festivals in the Hindu culture are meant to celebrate the victory of good over evil. In this sense, Diwali is a day of many blessings.

It is the day when the wickedness, jealousy and greed in Kaikeyi accepted defeat and when the love, dedication and service of Bharat, won. It is the day when Sri Ram, Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya. Happiness, peace and harmony returned to Ayodhya—the land of no conflict. Sri Ram represents honesty and firm adherence to duty; Sita embodies faith and devotion; Lakshman personifies detachment.

Satyabhama kills NarakasuraFor this homecoming, lamps of peace are lit. It is the day Sri Krishna killed Narakasura—the demon of sorrow and hell, who had kidnapped and imprisoned 16,000 princesses for his harem. It is the day when the selfish ego, which has entrapped all the 16,000 thought-varieties, is killed and all thoughts get wedded to the one infinite blissful consciousness, Sri Krishna Paramatma—the supreme self in all. When our mind turns towards the infinite self, the sense of limitation along with its selfishness ends.

For this knowledge, lamps of joy are lit.

It is the day when we harvest the results of our hard work blessed with wealth by Mother Lakshmi. We pray to her with gratitude and ask the gracious Divine Mother to shower Her blessings in abundance for the coming year, give us the intelligence to use our wealth in the right manner and give us the heart to share it generously with our fellow beings.

DiyaFor this sharing, lamps of love are lit. Fill the heart with the oil of love. Place in it the wick of single-pointed mind. Light it with the knowledge of truth and remove the darkness of ignorance around you. Just as one lamp can light many lamps; let each one kindle this light in many hearts. 

» Swami Tejomayananda, head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. © Central Chinmaya Mission Trust.

VHP gives Modi govt two and a half years to built Ram temple in Ayodhya – Rajiv Srivastava

Proposed Ram Temple at Ayodhya

Rajiv Srivastava“VHP looks ready to understand the government’s compulsion. ‘Even if we put pressure on the BJP government to bring a legislation on the issue, the bill will not be passed in Rajya Sabha as the government doesn’t have the numbers. In that case it would be prudent to give them time to get the numbers,’ Chinmayanand further said.” – Rajiv Srivastava

Swami ChinmayanandaVishwa Hindu Parishad has given BJP government at the Centre 2.5 years at the most to take up Ram Mandir construction issue.

On Friday, RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale said it was for the BJP government to decide when will they take up the issue, they have five-year time, but VHP’s member Marg Darshak Mandal and former minister of state for Home Swami Chinmayanand while talking to TOI said: “… not five years but they should take it up much earlier at the most two and a half years.”

The three-day RSS national executive meet that began in Lucknow on Friday has brought the issue of Ram temple, which BJP kept aloof of during the Lok Sabha election, back in reckoning.

Dattatreya HosabaleFour months after the BJP government at the Centre, saffron outfits have finally begun speaking their mind out on their core issue of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.

While BJP government at the Centre might have got almost five-year term from its ideological guardian — RSS — to construct Ram mandir, Vishwa Hindu Parishad wants it to be constructed well before the government completes five-year term.

Until Modi-led government came to power at the centre, the outfits were more being ‘sentimental’ about the issue, but now they are being ‘reasonable’ about it as none is willing to put pressure on the BJP government to take up their ideological issue immediately.

BJP chief Amit Shah, who after attending the RSS meeting, agreeing with what Hosabale said only proves the point.

What makes it interesting that VHP looks ready to understand the government’s compulsion. “Even if we put pressure on the BJP government to bring a legislation on the issue, the bill will not be passed in Rajya Sabha as the government doesn’t have the numbers. In that case it would be prudent to give them time to get the numbers,” Chinmayanand further said.

However, the deadline given by the former union minister might not be final. “The VHP management committee meeting and a meeting with all the seers and saints is scheduled to be held in December, where a final decision on the issue would be taken,” VHP’s national secretary Rajendra Pankaj said.

Ram Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.However, Pankaj also cited Chinmayanand’s logic that the BJP government lacks the required numbers in Rajya Sabha to ensure passing of the legislation on the issue.

“Besides, VHP wants the government to take the initiative on the issue and even try to bring Muslim representatives on discussion table as they had earlier said that they would forego their claim if it was established that a temple existed before the mosque was built at the disputed site in Ayodhya,” Pankaj further said.

Politically speaking, it seems the deadline by the saffron outfits is a well thought out plan. By the time VHP’s deadline approaches, assembly elections in all the major states would be over, as BJP will not once again like the issue to be at centre stage during these elections just like they managed to keep it away during Lok Sabha election. – The Times of India, 19 October 2014

Carved stones for the new Ram Temple at Ayodhya

Ram-Nam bricks donated by Hindus for a Ram Temple at Ayodhya

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Supreme Court: Systemic failures and corruption thwarts Ganga cleaning plan – IANS

Dead fish in the Ganga

Supreme Court of India in New Delhi“The court … repeatedly considered the option of setting up a committee that would assess the progress made in various steps taken by the government to make Ganga pollution free. The committee considered … was on the line of Bhure Lal Committee that was set-up by the apex court to clear the residential areas of commercial activities and unauthorised constructions in the national capital.” – IANS

Taking a dim view of the snail’s pace at which the Ganga action plan for cleaning the 2,525-km-long river had progressed, the Supreme Court Wednesday said heads must roll for lack of headway as it pointed to systemic failure and that Hari ki Pauripeople on the ground were more interested in bribe than in their task.

“So many heads should roll for the failure to implement the plan. It was not being allowed to be done for corrupt means. This is happening because some people who are entrusted to do the work are not doing it. They are not doing it not because they don’t like it but are being bribed,” said a bench of Justice T. S. Thakur, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice R. Banumathi.

The strong observation from the bench came as it was told that since 2007 only one sewage treatment plant was set up in Dehradun and repeated reminders from the Central Pollution Control Board to the State Pollution Control Boards in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal to act against grossly polluting industries have fallen on deaf ears.

“It has not happened for so many years. If it goes on like that it (Ganga cleaning) may not happen in our lifetime. You have to take preventive steps. There has to be (fixing of) accountability,” said Justice Thakur.

Solicitor General Ranjit KumarThe court said this as all through the hearing, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar tried to push the task of cleaning Ganga on the five basin states of Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal as the central government had financed the project but the states were responsible for execution.

“You are the architects of the project to make Ganga pollution free,” the court told him as it wanted to know about the objectives the central government wanted to accomplish in the first phase of the action plan.

The court said that the first phase should commence with preventing the industrial waste from 764 grossly polluting industries from flowing into the river as it would take care of 30 percent of the most toxic industrial waste in it.

Expressing its dismay that Central Pollution Control Board was headless for last six months and in the charge of an additional secretary, the court asked the Solicitor General to tell the court where the appointment was stuck and for which reason.

It also asked Solicitor General to inform the court the progress made on the steps taken by the government in three meetings held in September and October for making Ganga pollution free.

Uma Bharti is the Union Cabinet Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga RejuvenationIt also asked the CPCB to tell it what steps was taken by the pollution control boards in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal on the 222 grossly polluting units – 215 in Uttar Pradesh, one in Bihar and six in West Bengal which were identified by it.

Directing the next hearing of the matter Oct 29, the court asked the central government to file an affidavit with the information sought by it by Oct 27.

The court, throughout its two-hour-long hearing of the matter, repeatedly considered the option of setting up a committee that would assess the progress made in various steps taken by the government to make Ganga pollution free.

Bhure LalThe committee considered by the court was on the line of Bhure Lal Committee that was set-up by the apex court to clear the residential areas of commercial activities and unauthorised constructions in the national capital.

The court said it even thought of having Bhure Lal, Delhi Metro former managing director E. Sreedharan and former Election Commissioner K. J. Rao on the committee being weighed by it but its only reluctance was asking such senior people, in terms of their age, to undertake such an arduous task. – Business Standard, 15 October 2014

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Swamy the Giant Killer – Debaashish Bhattacharya

Subramanian Swamy

Justice“In 1996, Swamy filed the corruption case against Jayalalithaa in a sessions court in Tamil Nadu. He subsequently filed a few more cases against her. ‘She has now been convicted of those charges I brought against her,’ he says.” – Debaashish Bhattacharya

Call him destiny’s child. Subramanian Swamy, the 75-year-old enfant terrible of Indian politics, firmly believes in destiny. Destiny has always played a key role in his life, he thinks. He was destined to bring down the late Karnataka chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde in the phone-tapping scandal in the late 1980s, former telecom minister A. Raja in the 2G-spectrum scam and now J. Jayalalithaa, till recently Tamil Nadu chief minister. In all the three cases, Swamy was the prime mover, the main petitioner.

I am meeting him at his Nizamuddin East house in New Delhi at 10am on the seventh of this month, which happens to be a Tuesday — just as I did four years ago. In 2010, I had interviewed him at the same Nizamuddin East house on a Tuesday on the seventh of the month at 10 in the morning, although this was in December. Coincidence or destiny?

When I point this out to him, Swamy, dressed in his trademark white kurta and pyajama, chuckles. He says he has always “functioned on” the premise that destiny dictates human lives. And that’s precisely why he “never gets disappointed” when something goes wrong.

Not even when he failed to find his name on the list of ministers in the Narendra Modi Cabinet? “There were expectations. But it didn’t happen,” he replies. Had he been prepared for this? “It’s not a question of being prepared or not. I had led the anti-corruption campaign and so everybody assumed I would be a minister. I never asked for it,” he says.

But given a choice, the former Harvard economics professor would have liked to be India’s finance minister. “I am an economist by training. So, obviously, if there is a ministry I should serve, it should be finance, nothing else,” Swamy says.

“My philosophy is, I do what I want to do. The outcome is destiny, as the Gita says.” When I press him further about his ministerial aspirations, he bristles. “Are you a psychoanalyst? It seems you are more disappointed than I am.”

On that morning, Swamy looks refreshed. He started his day at 4am as usual by reciting for 45 minutes the mantras of his guru, whom he won’t name. He has already done his morning round of yoga and has taken an Subramanian Swamyhour-long walk in a nearby park, shadowed by an automatic-toting plainclothesman. He has had Z-plus security since 1993, following threats to his life. He was once the target of the LTTE and is now the target of Islamic militants, whom he rips apart.

Back in his study, Swamy’s seven-year-old golden retriever Kiky sits at my feet. Swamy gets dwarfed by the dog when she rises on her hind legs. “I love dogs but I have never had more than one. They need affection and you can be affectionate to one only,” he says.

His cellphone trills every now and then and he tells callers that he will soon have to leave for the Supreme Court to file a petition in the defamation cases the former Tamil Nadu chief minister has filed against him.

Court cases take up much of his time these days. He argues his cases himself, though he does take legal advice from his wife Roxna, a Supreme Court lawyer. His study on the ground floor of his house is lined with shelves packed with law books. “I have other books in a basement room but I hardly have time for them nowadays,” Swamy confesses.

Politically, Swamy and Jayalalithaa have shared a somewhat tumultuous “on-again-off-again” relationship over the years.

In some ways, the former Janata Party leader, who merged his party with the BJP when he joined it in August 2013, says he “likes” Jayalalithaa. “She is an intelligent woman. She suffered a lot in the cinema world and then poverty hit her,” he says. But when she “picked a fight” with him, Swamy says he had no option but to “fight back”.

In 1996, Swamy filed the corruption case against Jayalalithaa in a sessions court in Tamil Nadu. He subsequently filed a few more cases against her. “She has now been convicted of those charges I brought against her,” he says.

Oddly enough, Swamy’s Janata Party forged an alliance with Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK in Tamil Nadu a year later in 1997, a tie that lasted till 2000. Predictably, some critics regard him as a political opportunist.

But he defends what happened. “It was a political decision. I was dealing with a bigger enemy in DMK‘s M. Karunanidhi who was in power then. So if Jayalalithaa was agreeable to an alliance with me, why should I oppose it?” he asks, adding that he’d made it clear then to the AIADMK leader that he was not going to withdraw the cases against her.

Defining Subramanian Swamy is not easy. His supporters laud him as an anti-corruption crusader; his detractors slam him as a publicity hound who likes to fish in troubled waters. Whatever the case, Swamy clearly thrives on controversy.

With Jayalalithaa lodged in jail, Swamy believes he has emerged as a threat to several politicians he has been trying to expose. “I am exposing them, ruining their political careers,” exclaims Swamy, who gave up teaching at Harvard in 2012 to be a full-time politician. “I have more problems with politicians trying to kill me. They don’t like me to investigate them. Even the home ministry knows this,” he says.

Swamy thinks that many people “speak from both sides of their mouths” when it comes to him. “If I go only after the Opposition, they call it political vendetta. But If I go after my own party, as I did against Ramakrishna JayalalithaHegde, they call me untrustworthy. It is useless to listen to criticism because they will criticise anything you do,” he maintains.

With Jayalalithaa behind bars, the former Union law and commerce minister is now busy gunning for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald newspaper case he filed a few months ago, accusing them of profiting from the closed newspaper building, among others. The Congress president and vice-president have denied the allegations.

“I waited 18 years to see Jayalalithaa convicted. I could now wait half that, to see the mother and son convicted,” he says.

Another case he wants to pursue is the death of Sunanda Pushkar, the wife of Congress MP from Kerala, Shashi Tharoor. “It was not a natural death. There are reasons to suspect there was foul play,” he says, adding the Union home minister Rajnath Singh assured him in a letter that the government would pursue this. “If they don’t, I will,” he says.

Swamy, who did his MA in statistics from Indian Statistical Institute near Calcutta in 1962 before doing a PhD Mamata Banerjee doing namazin economics from Harvard, feels “sad about the sorry state of affairs” in Bengal, a state he says he was proud of for its culture and leadership.

“I have always admired Mamata Banerjee for driving the Communists from Bengal. But it now seems that Islamic militants are gaining ground in Bengal under her regime while her party indulges in politics of appeasement. Her party is also neck-deep in the Saradha scam. It’s time the chief minister was brought to book,” he says grimly.

Hit list

• Moved the Supreme Court against former telecom minister A. Raja for wrongdoings in the allocation of 2G licences. Raja was arrested by the CBI in February 2011.

• In 1996 filed a case accusing J. Jayalalithaa of amassing properties disproportionate to her income during her tenure as Tamil Nadu chief minister (1991-1996).

Jayalalithaa was convicted on September 27, 2014, and had to step down as CM.

• Exposed Ramakrishna Hegde, the late Janata Party leader and then chief minister of Karnataka, in a phone tapping scandal in the late 1980s. Hedge resigned.

• Accused Sonia Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi of criminal breach of trust in the National Herald case. The newspaper was once run by the Congress.

• Wants to expose the mystery behind the death of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. The death was a result of foul play, he says. – The Telegraph, 12 October 2014

» Debaashish Bhattacharya is a corespondent for The Telegraph Kolkata

Preview: An Atrocious Biography – R. Y. Deshpande

Peter HeehsR. Y. DeshpandeThis is a book critiquing Peter Heehs’s attempted biography The Lives of Sri Aurobindo published by the Columbia University Press, US, in May 2008.

There are any number of acceptable and authentic biographies of Sri Aurobindo, but it is also true that none can come to the expectation rising to the greatness of the person they are trying to portray. Can a life-account of an exceptional Mahayogi be really grasped and presented by anybody? It cannot. Sri Aurobindo himself had said that his life was never on the surface for men to see. If a biography had to be written he himself would do it—he would write an autobiography. And indeed he has done it through his symbolic epic Savitri.

Yet we have a few accounts which are in a general sense not only adequate or satisfactory but also inspired and intuitive. Sri Aurobindo’s own long associate and personal attendant A. B. Purani writes about early life-accounts which had appeared at places: “I had occasion to An Atrocious Biography by R. Y. Deshpanderefer to Sri Aurobindo all the doubtful points of these books for correction or corroboration. This gave me the correct ground for his biography. I had been collecting material myself since 1923.” This was as early as 1958, but indeed it was inspiring.

Then Sri Aurobindo—His Life Unique by Rishabhchand written during the decade from 1960 carries in it the seal and sanction of the Mother herself. It restricts itself entirely to the pre-Pondicherry period up to 1910.

M. P. Pandit’s Sri Aurobindo in the Builders of Modern India sponsored by the Government of India is to record the story of struggles and achievements of the eminent sons and daughters of India who have been mainly instrumental for our national renaissance and the attainment of Independence. In it if there are miracles of the human side they are also cherished, cherished to kindle our hearts and souls to the possibilities that we possess.

Srinivasa Iyengar’s official Sri Aurobindo—a biography and a history as the fourth edition of 1985 is a monumental story essentially giving facts after facts in the life of Sri Aurobindo, giving them with the deep and sensitive touch of a deeper and more sensitive perception. The book runs into 800 pages and proclaims that Sri Aurobindo’s writings are not isolable from his life. Does one then need to go anywhere else to read his life if not in his writings?

Georges van Vrekhem’s very extraordinary Beyond Man has as its frontispiece a quotation from Sri Aurobindo: “The changes we see in the world today are intellectual, moral, physical in their ideal and intention: the spiritual evolution waits for its hour and throws up meanwhile its waves here and there. Until it comes the sense of the others cannot be understood and till then all interpretations of present happenings and forecast of man’s future are vain things. For its nature, power, event are that which will determine the next cycle of humanity.” The next cycle of humanity opening into the spiritual—that is the true penetrating sense of insight we get from this European’s account of Sri Aurobindo.

An opening into the dynamic spiritual—that is what we experience in Satprem’s Sri Aurobindo or The Adventure of Consciousness. It looks as though Sri Aurobindo himself was standing behind this Adventure. The author says: “This book has been written from a Western point of view and for those who yearn for a truth of Life and not only a truth with eyes closed.” Perhaps in it one will find “perfect harmony of inner freedom and outer mastery”. If the luminous intuitive can be the possible way of presenting the Yogi’s ‘life’, then it is here.

But in contrast to all this what do we have in The Lives of Sri Aurobindo authored by Peter Heehs and published by the Columbia University Press in May 2008? It is utter falsification of the vision and work of Sri Aurobindo. It revels in lurid details. About spiritual experiences it voices half-truths. It calls Sri Aurobindo’s main work Savitri a “fictional creation”. There is the constant doublespeak in the biography. Everywhere the intention is to denigrate the Master-Yogi. Peter Heehs travels Freud’s royal road deeper into the unconscious. In this presentation he is actually toeing the line of the Chicago School of Wendy Doniger to downgrade Indian tradition and all that is noble and Indian. Its objective seems to be to offer to a certain brand of intellectuals sleazy soap-operas that can provide aberrant entertainment. Yet why should one like Mr Heehs? ‘Cause he can cause more drama than a “naked chick in the Vatican” or, for that matter, in the editorial room of Auroville Today. It is regrettable that a certain type of American scholarship should have fallen into such a terrible pit of rationality that always keeps itself shut from things noble and creative and elevating. By becoming too rational it becomes vitalistically infrarational when the new horizons are trying to stretch into the suprarational for the growing soul of man, when post-human destinies are awaiting with new faculties of cognition.

“Sri Aurobindo is one of the greatest thinkers of Modern India,” said Nobel Laureate Romain Rolland. He is “the most complete synthesis achieved up to the present between the genius of the West and the East…. The last of the great Rishis holds in his outstretched hands, the bow of Creative Inspiration.” But disappointingly this fallacious American scholarship is not aware of that bow of Creative Inspiration. That is perhaps its misfortune.

In contrast to this Times Literary Supplement, London, looks at Sri Aurobindo as follows: “Of all modern Indian writers Aurobindo—successively poet, critic, scholar, thinker, nationalist, humanist—is the most significant and perhaps the most interesting…. In fact, he is a new type of thinker, one who combines in his vision the alacrity of the West with the illumination of the East. To study his writings is to enlarge the boundaries of one’s knowledge…. He is a yogi who writes as though he were standing among the stars, with the constellations for his companions. Sri Aurobindo is no visionary. He has always acted his dreams…. So from individual self-discipline he has gone to the life of humanity. The Psychology of Social Development, Ideals and Progress and The Ideal of Human Unity should be carefully considered by all those who are busy preparing blue-prints for the future.” Can by any stretch of imagination this be called hagiographic, as the author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo would rush to broadcast?

If the Indian Renaissance as a large collective began in the early decade of the last century in it Sri Aurobindo had a major part to play. For holding the principle of free speech as his right and the Doctrine of Nationalism he had to suffer the ignominy of an undertrial prisoner for one year, 1908-09. But good sense of justice prevailed in the colonial masters and he was acquitted. His defence lawyer C.R. Das perorated: “Long after this controversy will be hushed in silence, long after this turmoil, this agitation will have ceased, long after he [Sri Aurobindo] is dead and gone, he will be looked upon as the poet of patriotism, as the prophet of nationalism and the lover of humanity. Long after he is dead and gone, his words will be echoed and re-echoed, not only in India, but across distant seas and lands.” For Sri Aurobindo India was always the Mother to whom he would adore and worship. He had even the certitude that he would redeem her fallen lot. God had sent him to this world to accomplish that great mission, he wrote in the confidence of a god.

If a biography of Sri Aurobindo takes a perfunctory view of these outstanding events it would only go to show the dark and calamitous malaise that is present in the soul of the biographer. In fact his whole intention seems to denigrate all that is noble and Indian. An Atrocious Biography critiques systematically and with incisive scientific thoroughness this misgiven Lives of Sri Aurobindo. Running into 700 + pages it covers a few aspects to establish the deep-rooted predisposition and prejudice the author—a school dropout—of the Lives holds towards India and things that belong to the noble traditions of its civilisation and spirituality. This is symptomatic of a certain brand of American erudition and American learning which in fact is causing a much greater harm to its own psyche than these perpetrators of values would realise. If the Atrocious Biography can drive that message home its purpose will be more than served, served in the possibilities of post-human destinies that are waiting for us to dynamically live in and progress. – Savitri Cultural, 13 September 2014

About R.Y. Deshpande: Born in 1931 R.Y. Deshpande did his science studies from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India, and joined as a research physicist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai in 1955. Later he worked at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California USA, and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai. He has some fifty research papers published in national and international scientific journals. In 1981, Deshpande joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram Pondicherry where he taught physics and a few other subjects such as Astrophysics, Savitri, The Future Poetry, Science and Society for thirty years. During the same period he was for eight years the editor of Mother India, a monthly review of culture, published by the Ashram. During 2007-2008 Deshpande was a senior editor of Science-Culture-Integral Yoga Web-Magazine, SCIY founded in Los Angeles. Presently he runs two websites [Savitri & Mirror of Tomorrow] devoted specifically to Sri Aurobindo’s epic Savitri and cultural matters of national and international interest. He gave on different fora, including radio and TV, interviews, talks and seminars dealing with social, spiritual, scientific and literary aspects. Deshpande’s literary activities include writing poetry, essays, articles, book reviews, comments which have been published in a few cultural periodicals. He is a published author of some three dozen books of poetry, literary criticism, Aurobindonian philosophy and culture, two reflective books on science and related social matters. 

Get the book here

An Atrocious Biography
Price Rs 750.00
First Edition 30 August 2014
ISBN: 978-93-82547-71-6
Published by Savitri Foundation
10, Jorbagh, New Delhi – 110 003
Ph: 011-43001448
Websites: Savitri & CreateSpace at Amazon

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We are tribals and we worship Goddess Durga – JNU Tribal Students’ Forum

This article was sent to us by a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) as part of an expose of Communist student unions like AISF who are running a propaganda campaign against Hindu festivals. The statement is written by a tribal student studying at JNU on behalf of the JNU Tribal Students Forum. – Editor

Santhal Durga Puja

ॐ जयन्ती मङ्गला काली भद्रकाली कपालिनी ।
दुर्गा क्ष्यमा शिवा धात्री  स्वहा स्वधा  नमोस्तु ते ।।

A crazy group of selfish people should not tell us whom to worship, and you are certainly not our representatives.  Since our childhood, we tribals of India worship Mother Goddess Durga and it is our religion and culture. If you go to the hills of Darjeeling and Sikkim “Dasain” or Durga Puja is a joyous occasion. We believe in Goddess Durga and we seek her blessings. We do not care if you bunch of nutheads try to be too intellectual but we tribal students warn you, NEVER EVER TRY TO PLAY WITH OUR FEELINGS AND OUR RELIGION!

We tribals revere our mother Goddess Durga and all her forms, we go into the battlefield invoking her name, when our Gorkha brothers captured territories from the invading Pakistani army in 1999 we invoked the name of Durga Mata and this is our religion and culture! We tribals from Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh also worship Goddess Durga. It is unfortunate that some of our brothers and sisters have fallen prey to the evil activities of invading Christian evangelical missionaries who have tried to lure us away from our culture and religion but we have resisted their nefarious designs and we shall continue to do so.

Durga Puja is a very important part of our identity. We tribals from this region have not forgotten how the missionaries have tried to ridicule and attack our religion and now a small group of people in JNU are trying the same with the backup of these evil missionaries. We again repeat, WE ARE TRIBALS WE WORSHIP GODDESS DURGA AND WE SHALL DO SO FOR GENERATIONS TO COME!

The Santhal tribe of West Bengal and Jharkhand also worships Durga, and Durga Puja is a very important festival for us, we remember the sacrifices of our leaders against the British and the evangelical missionaries years ago when we went to war with them for defending our lands, culture and beliefs. We remember our leaders Brojo Murmu and Durga Murmu who invoked the name of the Mother Goddess and fought against the British. What’s more, we still follow the age-old custom of sacrificing a white goat to the Goddess seeking her blessings in defending our culture and religion. We are proud worshipers of Goddess Durga and we are tribals. We have not forgotten what the Christian evangelical missionaries have done to us, they have played with our feelings and have tried to destroy us but because the Mother Goddess is with us they have failed and will always fail! (See this article which is a strong testimony of our Hindu roots).

We tribals know what imperialist evangelical missionaries have done to our brothers all over the world. They have changed their history in Ethiopia, caused war between brothers in Rwanda, they forced our brothers to convert in Ecuador and they have for years tortured, harassed and hurt us all over the world. This is the holy land of India where we exist and we shall exist. We shall not bow down before this imperialist agenda, we tribals have resisted these evil peddlers and we shall defend our religion and culture no matter what.

To those who have sold their souls to these imperialist agents, we are not like you and we despise you, we are Hindus, we are tribals and we worship our Mother Goddess. We dance and sing in her honour and we revere her! You do not represent us, you are not one of us and we are capable of representing ourselves. We are tribals, we are Hindus, and we are proud of it! Jai maa durga jai maa kali! We swear by our religion and we swear by our Goddess. We warn you don’t forget jai maa kali aayo gorkhali. – JNU TRIBAL STUDENTS’ FORUM

JNU Tribal Students' Forum

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