Dharm Jagran spends Rs 50 lakh a month to ‘bring back home’ converted Hindus – Rajiv Srivastava

Reconverting to Hinduism

Hindu activist raising the Bhagwa Dwaj over a Cross.“Re-conversion holds no meaning if the members of the caste they belong to don’t accept them back into their fold, … and … [an effort is made] to ensure that the re-converted families aren’t discouraged. The cost on an average the Dharm Jagran has to bear on community feasting comes to around Rs 40,000 to 50,000 per month.” – Rajiv Srivastava

For reconversion or ‘ghar wapsi‘ of Hindu families that converted to other religions, outfits like Dharm Jagran have to bear a huge cost. An offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayemsewak Sangh (RSS), Dharm Jagran coughs up on an average Rs 8 to 10 lakh per month alone mainly as fuel cost and some miscellaneous expenses in the western UP area alone.

Claiming that on an average 1,000 families are re-converted, mostly in western UP region in a month, the cost incurred on such programmes comes to around Rs 50 lakh per month. The average cost incurred on each family comes to around Rs 5,000, Dharm Jagran’s western UP in charge Rajeshwar Singh told TOI.

The fuel cost incurred is meant for the outfit’s about 100 full-time volunteers, whose job is to identify people who converted to other religions from Hinduism, make them aware about what good they are missing by not being a Hindu and convince them to re-convert. ‘Ghar wapsi‘ is what Rajeshwar Singh called this re-conversion as.

Interestingly, this is not the only expenditure incurred by the Dharm Jagran. Since most of these volunteers are full-timers, they have a task in hand to carry on such awareness campaigns in the region throughout the year. On most of the occasions, once a family gets convinced to re-convert, volunteers have to pay for the affidavit on behalf of the family head, Ajay Sinha, a full-timer (as they are called within the organization) from Shahjahanpur told TOI. Interestingly, the requirement of affidavits is mandatory only in case of certified Christian converts, Rajeshwar told TOI, added that while for the ghar wapsi of those whom he refers to as “crypto-Christians”, there is no need for certificate as such people are not converted on papers but have adopted the tradition and culture associated with Christianity.

Since the number of certified Christians is far less as compared to the ‘crypto’ category, the expenditure on affidavits hardly comes to Rs 2,000 per month, he said. According to a rough estimate, ghar wapsi of around 1,000 families is done on an average every month in the western UP area, Rajeshwar claimed.

Though not every time, the organization also spends money for holding ‘shuddhi yagya‘ (purification ritual), a must for those who are reconverting. Since most of the times such yagyas are held with the contribution from Shuddhi Yagnaeither the family re-converting or through voluntary contribution by like-minded people, the average expenditure on such yagyas comes to Rs 20,000 per month per district, Rajeshwar said.

But holding shuddhi yagyas or submitting affidavits is not end the job for the Hindu outfit. The fact that the re-conversion holds no meaning if the members of the caste they belong to don’t accept them back into their fold, he said and added that [an effort is made] to ensure that the re-converted families aren’t discouraged. The cost on an average the outfit has to bear on community feasting comes to around Rs 40,000 to 50,000 per month.

A full-time volunteer from Meerut praant requesting anonymity said on an average RSS provides Rs 12 to 15 lakh as annual budget to each of Dharm Jagran’s praants and rest is through contributions from the respective districts. This funding by the RSS is reviewed annually, he said.

Such expenditure is nothing in view of the impact of such efforts, said Ajay from Shahjahanpur. Rajeshwar claims members from other communities claim to spend at least Rs 3 crore on one family that converts to their religion from Hinduism. Rajeshwar claimed he was busy with his aim of ‘ghar wapsi‘ of around 20,000 families or 1.25 lakh individuals in December. – The Times of India, 22 September 2014

Tamil Nadu Government’s scant regard for cow protection – B. R. Haran

Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious Charitable Endowments Department

B.R. Haran“While devotees donate thousands of cows and calves in the belief that they would be taken care of well, the HR & CE Department shows scant regard to their religious sentiments and to the welfare of the hapless animals. This pathetic state of affairs prevails across the state. … Hundreds of cows have vanished from the goshala of Sri Ranganathar Temple, Srirangam, which is the first Vaishnavite Divya Kshetram and the Chief Minister’s own constituency. … A review … in November 2012 showed that 5,389 cows have vanished without a trace from the goshala attached to the famous Thiruchendur Murugan Temple. They had been sent to private goshalas for maintenance, some of which exist only on paper! Neither the department had records, nor did officials have any answer!

The CowGlorious Bharatiya tradition

When it comes to religious tradition and the cultural heritage associated with it, our culture stands foremost in the world, with thousands of temples more than millennia old, a continuous legacy of pious worship by Hindus from across the world. Since ancient times, temples have been seats of learning. The temple tradition includes protection, preservation and progression of Vedas, agamas, literature, arts, architecture, gau samrakshana, music, fine arts and culture.

As we worship the deities installed inside the temple, we also worship the vrukshaas and theerthas associated with them. We also worship the vaahanaas of the deities. However, if there is one animal to which we give equal importance as that of the deity, it is the cow. To no other animal in the Hindu pantheon does the Sanatana Dharma give so much of sanctity and importance.

In ancient times, each and every temple had its own nandavanam (garden) and goshala attached to it. Devotees visiting the temples would visit the goshala and offer worship to the cows and feed them. Products like milk, komiyum (cow urine) and cow dung cakes used for daily rituals like abhishekams and homams were all taken from the goshalas. Even the vibhuti (sacred ash) was prepared from cow dung.

Degeneration caused by political instability and governmental apathy

Even while our nation was oppressed by the invaders for a thousand years, our religious tradition and cultural heritage almost remained intact and continued, though practising them was made difficult. Our worshipping pattern didn’t change at all. Our culture of worshipping the cow continued.

Although, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department was established during the British period itself in Madras, the temples of Tamil Nadu bore the brunt of loot and mismanagement only after the takeover of the endowments by the governments formed by the Dravidian parties. With the advent of the Dravidian governments since 1967, the temples have been systematically mismanaged and their wealth looted alternatively by the DMK and AIADMK governments. The temple tanks, nandavanams and the goshalas became extinct due to total disregard. Even those left are not getting the required attention from the government.

High Court’s direction

In the third week of August, the Madras High Court constituted a three member committee to investigate the status of goshalas attached with the temples under the purview of Tamil Nadu government’s Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) Department and ordered the committee to submit its report within two months.

The High Court gave this order after hearing a petition (WP 28793 & 28794 of 2013) filed by writer and animal activist Radha Rajan. The petition said, “The Goshalas attached to the Temples under its purview are maintained by the HR&CE Department itself. However, more than a dozen cows died in the Goshala attached to the famous Thiruvannamalai Temple due to lack of sufficient food and improper maintenance”, and prayed for the constitution of a committee to look into the omissions and commissions with regards to the HR&CE Department’s maintenance of temple goshalas.

When the petition, submitted by advocate Sathish Parasaran, came up for hearing by the First Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishen Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, Government Pleader S Kandaswami submitted that L Anantha Padmanaban, Joint Director of Animal Husbandry Department, has been appointed to review the maintenance of temple goshalas. Accepting the submission of the government pleader, the High Court also included Dr Sumathi of the Animal Welfare Board of India and Radha Rajan in the committee and ordered them to submit a report within two months after investigating the temple goshalas. The case was adjourned for 27 October.

Save the Cow!Background of the case

In October 2013, the media reported sudden deaths of several cows at the goshala attached to the famous Annamalaiyar Temple in Thiruvannamalai. While donating the cows, the devotees also part with a decent amount for their maintenance; moreover, the revenue of the temple is huge, running into several crores of rupees. So, it is not difficult for the HR&CE Department to manage the goshala. However, as several cows died within a short span of time, cadres of Hindu Munnani and animal lovers resorted to hunger strike in front of the temple. The district authorities pacified them and ordered an investigation by an organisation called Arunachala Animal Sanctuary and Rescue Center.

When the veterinary doctor and other officials from the centre visited the goshala situated within the temple premises, there were a total of 105 cows in it. All were donated by devotees and local people who could no longer care for them. Many of them had given Rs. 10,000 for the maintenance of the cows. After investigating the status of the goshalas and health of the cows the center gave the following report:

  • Cows and calves are seriously undernourished and have lost the ability to chew well
  • The care-taking is inadequate. There is only one caretaker and an assistant for all the animals.
  • They are fed twice a day. Each feeding in total consists of: 25 kg of oil cake, 25 kg of black gram covers, 25 kg of bran, and hay. (They never get green grass). That is enough food to sustain only 15 adult cows.
  • There is adequate space, but no protection against rain.
  • In case of acute illness, or injury, the Government Veterinary Hospital responds promptly.

While the temple revenue runs into crores, the HR&CE Department appointed only two people to attend to 105 cows and cattle feed enough for only 15 adult cows! If this is the condition of the goshala, is there any surprise in the reported deaths of cows? If this is the condition of a goshala attached to such a big temple, imagine the status of goshalas in smaller temples.

In this background, Radha Rajan filed a writ petition requesting the High Court to order the government to submit a status report with details about the number of goshalas and cows maintained therein, the status with regards to the purchase and distribution of cattle feed, hygienic condition of the goshalas, etc. She prayed for constitution of a committee to investigate the goshalas. Thus, the HC constituted the three member panel.

Seal of Tamil NaduPathetic condition across the state

While devotees donate thousands of cows and calves in the belief that they would be taken care of well, the HR&CE Department shows scant regard to their religious sentiments and to the welfare of the hapless animals. This pathetic state of affairs prevails across the state. Let us see the state of affairs in a few other temples too.

Thiruchendur Murugan TempleFive thousand cows vanished from the goshala of famous Thiruchendur Murugan Temple

A review by the department’s internal auditors in November 2012 showed that 5,389 cows have vanished without a trace from the goshala attached to the famous Thiruchendur Murugan Temple. They had been sent to private goshalas for maintenance, some of which exist only on paper! Neither the department had records, nor did officials have any answer!

When the number of cows donated by the devotees exceeds the limit and the goshala runs out of space, the department used to send them to private goshalas; this practice still prevails. However, it was found that the officials violated the norms, which resulted in thousands of cows missing. It was even suspected that the cows could have been sold to butchers by the officials themselves. (Dinamalar, 30 November 2012)

The HR&CE Department has “integrated goshalas” in places like Srirangam, Palani and Thiruchendur for maintenance of cows in large numbers, as most of the temple goshalas lack sufficient space. In October 2010, a building was constructed inside the integrated goshala premises at Thiruchendur for proper maintenance. Veterinary doctors were placed there for regular check up of the cattle. The department bought one Bolero jeep for inspection purposes. However, at present the integrated goshala is in a pathetic condition without even a single cow. The place stands abandoned with plants and bushes grown all over and frequented by anti-social elements. While the officials enjoy joy rides in the Bolero jeep, they didn’t bother to maintain the integrated goshala. The department wasted more than a crore of rupees on this “project”.

From temple to beef stalls, a one way ticket for cows in Srirangam

Hundreds of cows have vanished from the goshala of Sri Ranganathar Temple, Srirangam, which is the first Vishnavite Divya Kshetram and one of the most famous temples in the world. Tamil weekly Kumudam Reporter (27-12-2007) ran a detailed cover story with photographs exposing that:

As the number of cows donated by bhaktas keeps increasing, some are deliberately allowed to die without food. Then they are accounted as ‘death due to disease’ and sent for burial. They are cut into pieces at the burial ground and transported to beef stalls in and around Srirangam. On an average, two or three cows are transported in this fashion every day. Many cows do not find a place in the ‘death list’ either.

The internal audit report noted the disappearance of 105 cows in a single year, thereby confirming the weekly’s cover story. This writer is given to understand that the sad story of cows’ death continues even now in Srirangam, the Chief Minister’s own constituency.

Mysterious Pazhani goshala     

Pazhani Murugan Temple is a famous temple bringing crores of rupees revenue for the Tamil Nadu government. In 2008, the HR&CE Department established an “integrated goshala” here in 240-acres at Seemanampatti, 40 kms from Pazhani town. The main purpose was to bring cows from the various temples and maintain them with adequate food and water and vast grass lands. But, when this writer and his colleagues from Vedic Science Research Center visited the integrated goshala on 4 March 2014, there were only 9 cattle (3 bulls, 2 cows and 4 calves). Though there are 20 staff on the payroll to attend to the cattle, only one was present on the spot. The ‘Cattle Officer’ had gone out. We spent more than three hours there but the ‘Cattle Officer’ did not return.

The area suffered severe water scarcity and the locals said they couldn’t find water even at 1200 feet. We could find only two small tanks filled with water and only two mounds of haystack. There was no semblance of any other cattle feed. When asked, the available staff said that green grass and fruit skins (left over from fruits used for preparing the famous Panchamrutham) used to be brought from Pazhani, but we couldn’t see any of them.

An organisation called ‘Pazhani Temple Protection Council’ has taken up various issues concerning the temple with the concerned authorities. A member of the organisation said that hundreds of cows donated by devotees have died in the last two years. We were given to understand that the HR&CE Department charges Rs. 1000/- for maintenance of each cow donated by devotees and that 300 cows were sent to women self-help groups without proper official procedures like notification, government order, etc.

If temple authorities are sending cows donated by bhaktas to self-help groups, why should they charge the devotee Rs. 1000/- for maintenance? Are there proper accounts of the money collected and for which other purpose is the money being used? What are self-help groups doing with the cows—are they maintaining them or selling them? Does the department keep track of those cows? If the cows are being sold by the self-help groups, why is the department giving the cows to them? Has the department taken any action against groups which have sold the cows?

So many questions arise! But there was no responsible official in that 240 acres integrated goshala to give proper answers. Ironically, the department spent Rs. 1,39,27,176/- for this goshala between 2008 and 2011!

Blatant violation of rules

When the HR&CE Department sends cows to private goshalas for proper maintenance, it is supposed to follow certain rules and regulations in this aspect:

  • The department can send the cows to only goshalas which are recognized and approved by the Animal Welfare Board of India. Those private goshalas must take care of the cows properly.
  • Each and every cow must be insured in the name of either the Joint Commissioner of the department or the Executive Officer of the concerned temple. If an insured cow meets with death, 70% of the insurance amount must be given to the goshala and the balance 30% to the temple.
  • The concerned goshala must duly inform the Joint Commissioner and Executive Officer about the death of cows which are sent by the temple.
  • HR&CE Department officials must inspect the cows at the concerned goshala at least once in two months.

These rules are violated at will. The officials knowingly send the cows to unrecognized private goshalas; they do not inspect the cows and goshalas, and do not maintain proper accounts. Thus, slaughter houses serve as the final destination of these poor cows. No wonder people allege that officials are making money out of such an evil practice.

Ramanathaswamy Temple in RameshwaramPathetic condition of cows in Rameshwaram Temple

At the following YouTube link one can see the pathetic condition of cows in the goshala of the famous Rameshwaram Temple, which shows the attitude of HR&CE Department officials for cow protection.

In the first week of this month (Sept 2014) this writer visited goshalas in five famous temples in Thanjavur and Kumbakonam, and found all in sordid condition.

Thirunageswaram Shiva Temple:  This is “Raagu Stal”, one of the famous Navagraha temples. There were only 2 cows and the shelter was in a pathetic condition. One could not see any cattle feed or even a haystack! No staff was seen taking care of the cows, which were tied near the Annadhana Hall.

Oppiliyappan Venkatachalapathi Temple: Only 3 cows seen in the vegetable garden, which had very little vegetation. Only haystack was available in the badly maintained shelter. Here also no staff was seen taking care of the cows.

Sarangapani Perumal Temple: There were 20 cows (14 cows and 6 calves) and the single shelter was not sufficient to hold them. Some masonry works were going on there. HR&CE Department has solicited donations for providing cattle feed through a notice board which states that the goshala has 32 cows. Only one staff (Gopalan) was there to look after 20 cows. The cows are not given bath on daily basis, but only on auspicious days or when he has time. Only haystack was seen and no other cattle feed. Though Gopalan said the cows were fed with other cattle feed such as oil cake and bran, he showed just a little quantity of oil cake which would not be enough for a single cow. The shelter was badly maintained.

Patteeswaram Durga Temple: Total 10 cattle (6 cows and 4 calves) were there. The milk is being used for pujas and abishekams by the temple itself. The shelter is badly maintained. There is also space for nandavanam, which is not used for cultivation of green grass or other cattle feed. Two staff (Mohan and Gopal) are taking care of the cows, but only Mohan was there during the visit. One HR&CE Department staff was seen taking count of the cows. Mohan said they take counts regularly and veterinary doctors visit regularly. He said the department doesn’t arrange any cattle feed apart from the haystack.

Swamimalai Murugan Temple: Though I was given to understand that the famous Swamimalai Murugan Temple has a goshala, I couldn’t find one when I visited. On enquiry, I learnt that a goshala functioned till two years back. When I visited the place where the nandavanam and goshala existed, I saw a lot of construction underway, such as toilets, hall for annadhanam and kitchens. One building for lodging government staff was also there apart from mobile toilets.

All these five temples are huge and famous and bring lots of revenue for the government. In spite of that, the cows and goshalas are badly maintained. This status of temple goshalas after the constitution of a panel by the High Court reveals the seriousness shown by the government and the HR&CE Department not only to cow protection, but also to the Judiciary.

J. JayalalithaaDestruction of cattle wealth and government’s indifference

On one side, temple cows are allowed to die and sent to slaughter houses, on the other side lakhs of cattle are trafficked from and via Tamil Nadu for meat and leather. The Tamil Nadu government is the culprit on both counts. It can easily streamline the temple goshalas utilising the temple revenue and it can end cattle trafficking by instructing the authorities to strictly implement the transportation rules.

But the government is just not bothered and allows all sorts of violations to happen. It doesn’t seem to realize that depleting cattle wealth will have a lasting long-term negative impact upon our agriculture and environment.

Worse, there is not a single mention about cow protection in the HR&CE Department’s Policy Note for the year 2014-15 submitted under Demands (no:47) for grants in accordance with the budget. In fact, the word “cow” is not to be found in the entire Policy Note! Even during her speech under Section 110 in the Assembly, the Chief Minister made no mention about cow protection and temple goshalas, while she waxed eloquent on things such as constitution of committees, appointment of trustees, regularising encroachments, and renovations, et al.

Madras High CourtCourt of law is the last resort

In this kind of disgusting and dreadful scenario, it is heartening that the High Court understood the plight of the hapless animals and constituted a committee to investigate the temple goshalas and submit a report. It gives confidence that the High Court will give requisite directions and pronounce orders for the proper maintenance of goshalas with clear systems in place, thereby ensuring the welfare of cows. The onus lies on the government to respond positively to the High Court’s orders and directions. – Vijayvaani, 25 September 2014

References

  1. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Panel-to-Study-Condition-of-Goshalas/2014/08/21/article2390292.ece
  2. http://www.dinamalar.com/news_detail.asp?id=833228
  3. http://www.dinamalar.com/News_Detail.asp?Id=595054
  4. Tamil Weekly Kumudam Reporter dated 27-12-2007
  5. http://tinyurl.com/prw8n72 from www.vsrc.in
  6. http://cms.tn.gov.in/sites/default/files/documents/hrce_e_pn_2014_15.pdf  

» B. R. Haran is a senior journalist based in Chennai.

VIDEO: Durga Saptashati (Full) – Markandeya Rishi

The Devi Mahatmyam (Sanskrit: देवीमाहात्म्यम्), or “Glory of the Goddess”) is a Hindu religious text describing the victory of the Goddess Durga over the demons Madhu-Kaitabha, Mahishasura and Shambha-Nishumbha. It is part of the Markandeya Purana, one of the secondary Hindu scriptures, and was composed in Sanskrit around c. 400-500 CE, with authorship attributed to the sage Rishi Markandeya.

Devi Mahatmya Sanskrit MS Nepal 11c

The oldest surviving manuscript of the Devi Māhātmya, on palm-leaf, in an early Bhujimol script, Bihar or Nepal, 11th century.
  • Text in Sanskrit of the Devi Mahatmyam here
  • Text in Tamil of the Devi Mahatmyam here
  • Text in English of the Devi Mahatmyam here

Arab money funding terrorism since the 1980s – Taki

Royal Palace, Riyadh

Taki Theodoracopulos“In cahoots with the Saudis and the Kuwaitis, the Qatari ruling family allowed various so-called private businessmen to raise money for jihad. Saudi money funnelled through Islamic charities has been funding terrorism since the 1980s. Ditto the Kuwaitis. These private fund-raisers are an obvious charade. It’s the Kuwaiti, Saudi and Qatari ruling family’s money that ends up in terrorist hands. It’s called protection money. ” – Taki

Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-SabahNext time you read about an auctioneer’s gavel coming down on a $150 million painting bought by some flunkey representing the ruling family of Qatar, don’t ooh or aah, but think of those monsters in Iraq and Syria who have their children pose on video while holding up the severed heads of innocents. And no, it’s not a stretch — without Qatar’s gold Islamic State would not exist, not even in the movies.

Let me put it another way: had Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover given White House dinners for Al Capone, the outcry would have been heard all the way down to Patagonia. Yet, as reported in these here pages by Charles Moore, not only did the head of the family lunch with the Queen at Windsor, a cousin and his mother also lunched the next day at Windsor and caused a stir because they were not included in the Queen’s carriage. They sponsored Ascot this year, and Elizabeth Anson was their PR person. She burst into tears after failing to include them in the lead carriage. All I can say is shame on Ascot, more shame on Anson, and eternal shame on the stuffed shirts who forced the Queen to break bread with these characters.

Saudi King Abdullah with Dick Cheney & George H.W. BushThey say Brits will do anything for money, but the rest of the Western world is just as bad. Just look at how a tiny Gulf nation of 250,000 goatherds managed to land the World Cup in 2022. To call the bribes Qatar must have paid to Fifa delegates colossal would be an understatement. But forget the 50-degree-Celsius heat and that football is unplayable in that hellhole, the scandal of modern-day slavery as practised by the Qataris is a far bigger depravity, overlooked by the West. In fact, calling foreign workers indentured servants is a euphemism; they are modern-day slaves. Foreign workers do not enjoy a minimum wage in Qatar, nor do they have any rights. They are not allowed to change jobs, however feudal the conditions, get a driving licence, rent a room or open a checking account unless they have their employer’s permission. Thousands have died while working in appalling conditions (hundreds of Nepalese alone), which provoked an investigation by the Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development, which sent a researcher and a photographer. Last week the Qatari government confirmed that the two have been arrested and are in prison. So much for European influence in that sweaty hellhole.

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al ThaniIn their craven search for money, Europeans have sold everything to these ghastly goatherds but their mother, because the Qatari gang is obviously not interested in the latter. Nothing is sacred, everything’s for sale. Qatar owns a share in Sainsbury’s, owns Harrods outright, owns a large share of Heathrow airport, large stretches of real estate in Knightsbridge and in the City it wanted to buy Claridge’s, has bought the French football team PSG and owns a share in Germany’s Volkswagen. Last but not least is the Al Jazeera TV network, one that poses as an unaligned network but in reality works for the gang called Thani.

So far so bad, but it gets much worse. In cahoots with the Saudis and the Kuwaitis, the Qatari ruling family allowed various so-called private businessmen to raise money for jihad. Saudi money funnelled through Islamic charities has been funding terrorism since the 1980s. Ditto the Kuwaitis. These private fund-raisers are an obvious charade. It’s the Kuwaiti, Saudi and Qatari ruling family’s money that ends up in terrorist hands. It’s called protection money. All three ruling ‘monarchies’ are basically illegitimate, and their power derives not from the people but from their oil and gas wealth and their ability to bribe Uncle Sam and other Western powers to keep them as heads.

Taliban office in QatarThe three desert satrapies had a falling out after the military overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Saudis stuck with Sisi, the Qataris and Kuwaitis stuck with the Brotherhood. Qatar allowed the Taleban to open an office, and openly finances the bloodthirsty Islamic State. No matter how bloodthirsty and extreme the IS murderers became, Qatar chose to keep on paying and will do so unless the US Marines land and force the head towel to Guantanamo, where he belongs.

Saddam HusseinHow have we come to this? Big oil had a lot to do with the First Gulf War. Saddam was our friend and ally yet we chased him out of Kuwait, which was sort of a province of Iraq when it was still Mesopotamia. The Israeli lobby ‘ordered’ the Second Gulf War — no ifs or buts about it — and Israel is enjoying the slaughter going on in Syria and Iraq almost as much as it enjoyed crushing Gaza. (Only 6 per cent of Israelis were against the invasion and subsequent killing of innocent people.)

What is to be done? That’s an easy one, but it will never happen until money goes out of style. Reading the riot act to Qatar, the Saudis and the Kuwaitis is an exercise in futility. If I were Obama — and he’s been a very good president in resisting the Israeli lobby that has been at him to carpet-bomb Iran — I’d overthrow the Qataris ‘pour encourager les autres’. But don’t hold your breath. See you at Ascot next year. – The Spectator, 20 September 2014

» Taki Theodoracopulos is a Greek-born journalist and writer who lives variously in New York City, London and Switzerland. He is a social columnist and publishes his own magazine here.

Emir's Palace, Doha, Qatar

See also

  1. Hundreds of migrant workers dying in Qatar
  2. Qatar confirms arrest of UK rights workers
  3. Shockingly awful living conditions of construction workers in Qatar

What is religion good for? – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“Neither Christianity nor Islam has a solid philosophical basis. They consider as absolutely true what simply cannot be absolutely true: a story about the Highest does not qualify as That which always is, as it depends on thoughts. Further, the claim that the Highest, by whatever name it is called, is a separate entity apart from creation is scientifically not tenable.” – Maria Wirth

Yuri GagarinIn many parts of Europe, religion has become an important topic only in the last few decades. In the 1970s, religion or rather Christianity, which used to mean religion then, seemed obsolete. It was considered something for children and old people. Ever since Christians got the freedom to leave the Church not so long ago (in the 19th century in northern Germany), many did so. And after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin came back from space and declared that he had not come across God, the Church lost out further.

Just an example: when I was a child in the 1950s, in our small town mass was held every day at 6.30 a.m., at 7 a.m. and 3 times a week at 8 a.m. Since long now, there is no daily mass. Only the three services at 8 a.m. have survived. When I was a child, three hours of fasting were mandatory before taking Holy Communion. Now it has been scaled down to half an hour. Earlier, missing Sunday mass was a grave sin that would be punished with hell fire. Now one can attend it on Saturday instead of Sunday.

Religion seemed on its way out, yet suddenly it is back and very prominent in the public discourse. The main reason is the increasing visibility of Islam in Europe. When the first Turks came to Germany as “guest workers“, it was considered great that our boringly uniform society turned “multicultural”, with more interesting looking people on the streets. Meanwhile this enthusiasm has dimmed considerably. Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that the multicultural experiment has completely failed.

It is for the first time, after Christianity had crushed the Pagan faith in Europe, that the locals are confronted in their midst with a substantial population of followers of a different religion, which, as aggressively as Christianity, proclaims that it alone is the true religion, and whoever does not join it, is damned to hell forever. Moreover, many of those followers seem to take their religion really seriously.

This jolted Germans who did not identify foremost with being Christian anymore. Yet apparently, now they feel the need to counter Islam with Christianity. Angela Merkel exhorted Germans to go back to Christian values. In 2011, she invited the Pope to address the Parliament. While strolling through Munich city on a Sunday morning last winter, I saw many, including, fashionable youngsters, streaming into a big old church. Later I came to know that the priest of this church was very popular. Yet even in the small town where my mother lives, I saw many young parents take their kids to church for the children’s service. It would have been an unusual sight in the 1970s, when those same parents would have opted for a picnic instead.

What draws people to religion? What is it good for?

The most important point is in all likelihood an intuition in human beings that there is a higher, unfathomable power that is the cause for this vast universe and is also the cause for our own existence. Further, there is an intuition that this power somehow knows us and even guides us in life by this small voice of our conscience. There is an inner communion possible, be it through prayer or a feeling of awe.

Jesus of NazarethThis intuition makes sense. It is natural and does not require the label of “religion” and for many thousands of years it never had this label. The logical consequence of this intuition was to search for that power in oneself and outside. It prompted people to become mystics and scientists who pondered on what is true. We know that this went on for ages in the Indian subcontinent as many invaluable ancient texts are preserved.

However, in the last 2000 years of the long human history, this intuition that there is a higher power was exploited to promote ideologies that claim supremacy and strive for world dominion. An elaborate story was invented about this higher power. It was called “God, the Father”, and it was claimed he had one son and had sent this son down to earth, etc. To make matters worse, it was declared that this story is the only truth, and everyone has to believe it. As soon as Christianity became state religion of the Roman Empire, its followers rolled over mystically inclined locals and forced their belief on the people of vast areas in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Muhammad of MadinaA few hundred years later, another story was woven around this higher power. It was claimed that this power has spoken again through a prophet, and this was for the very last time that it has made its Will known. No more direct message from the highest power in future. Unfortunately, here too, this story was declared as the only truth and everyone has to believe in it.

It did not take long and the followers of those two different stories were at each other’s throat with each one claiming that the highest power wants everyone to believe their story and not that of their rival. Obviously, the highest power was misused as a front for gaining world dominion. The second story got in many areas soon the upper hand “with fire and sword”, as we can unfortunately vividly imagine. And of course, it did not bypass the wealthiest land on earth at that time – India.

Both these stories were called “religions”. In fact, Christianity and Islam are the main religions that come immediately to one’s mind when one hears “religion”. Hinduism is often not even mentioned when religions are listed, and this should be taken as a compliment.

In the Indian tradition, the intuition that there is a higher power was not exploited to enforce belief in one story as the absolute truth and to rule the world. Here, not one story, but innumerable stories developed. These stories exist peacefully side by side. Devotees of Ram, Krishna, Shiva, Ganapathi, Devi, etc., are reminded that they must never be narrow-minded as Ram himself worshipped Shiva.

In India the natural, mystical path was pursued. The Rishis pondered deeply and came up with profound insights. They defined absolute truth as That which is always – in past, present, future, and which shines out of itself. Is there anything that fits this definition, as the whole universe obviously does not qualify as being absolutely true? Yes, there is, the Rishis declare: Pure, thought-free consciousness is absolutely true. But to really know this as true, everyone needs to find out in himself.

Neither Christianity nor Islam has a solid philosophical basis. They consider as absolutely true what simply cannot be absolutely true: a story about the Highest does not qualify as That which always is, as it depends on thoughts. Further, the claim that the Highest, by whatever name it is called, is a separate entity apart from creation is scientifically not tenable.

Only the Hindu tradition is solidly grounded and does not have to fear scientific discoveries. In fact, it is supported by and can lead to further scientific discoveries, as western scientists found out and took advantage of, for example in nuclear physics.

Not surprisingly, those religions, which don’t have a solid philosophical basis, rely on force and on catching young, impressionable minds. They expanded their reach by violence and kept their flock in check by brainwashing children and by threatening the adults with severe punishment if they dared to disagree with the story/ dogma that had to be accepted blindly as truth.

Ever since Christianity lost its power to enforce blasphemy laws and punish heretics, it lost followers. Nobody knows how many Muslims would leave Islam, if heretics were not punished and there were no blasphemy laws in place.

In contrast, the Hindu tradition has no blasphemy laws and does not need any. Its philosophical basis is solid. Even in the face of danger to one’s life under Muslim rule and of being exposed to ridicule under British rule, most Hindus held on to their tradition.

However in independent India, an insidious teaching that “all religions are the same and deserve respect” did a lot of harm and enticed many to convert for some benefits. “Respecting other religions” was said to be in tune with Hindu values, not realizing that it meant respecting those whose explicit goal is to wipe out Hindus.

VoltaireClearly, something is wrong with religions that need to threaten their followers with grave consequences, whether in this life or in the afterlife, if they dare to question the story they have been told to believe as the only truth. Further something is clearly wrong with the claim that the Highest is partial towards one group and will be exceedingly cruel to all others in his creation – letting them burn in hellfire for ever and ever.

Some Christians realized this and also dared to say it. Voltaire suffered in prison for his outspokenness. One of his comments is still highly relevant. He said, “Those who can make you Mark Twainbelieve absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Mark Twain also called the bluff of the organized, dogmatic religion. He said, “Religion was born, when the first conman met the first fool.”

However, dogmatic religions are still going strong. Too few people question. Too few dare to look closely. Too few object to the outrageous claims that are made. Is it not outrageous to claim that Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, will burn in hell if they don’t convert? If a cricketer is not allowed to say this on the field, why are preachers allowed to spread this “absurdity” all over? Does it not encourage those who believe it to commit atrocities?

Those who had the good fortune to grow up in the Indian traditions, which allow freedom of thought and a genuine enquiry into truth, need to be alert and guard this freedom. If this freedom is lost, humanity will be truly miserable.

Sadly, it is lost already in many places on this earth. Saddest of all, it is lost in what is today Pakistan and where thousands of years ago human civilization had reached great heights. – Maria Wirth Blog, 14 September 2014

» 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.

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.

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