A Hindu approach to LGBT rights – S. Venkataraman & H. Voruganti

US Supreme Court 2015

“Some leaders associated with the Sangh Parivar remarked that homosexuality to be against Indian culture. What we have here, in reality, is a case where supposed defenders of Indian culture, and presumably Hinduism as well, from ‘western influence’ are not only wrong, but seem to be the ones acting under the very influence they seek to protect against.” – S. Venkataraman & H. Voruganti

Asoke Kumar Mukerji & Ban Ki-moonWill the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling declaring gay marriages legal in all 50 states restart the debate on LGBT rights in India? Far from discussion on marriage equality, there seems to be opposition to even decriminalizing LGBT relationships, not just among Christians and Muslims, but many Hindus as well. In fact, the Modi Government recently voted against the UN Secretary General’s decision to extend marriage benefits to LGBT couples, ostensibly because the UN did not discuss the matter with national governments. What should the Modi Government’s policy on LGBTs be? And what would a policy inspired by Hinduism or a more authentically Indian ethos look like?

Section 377 of the Indian penal code is a colonial law dating from 1860 that punishes sexual conduct “against the order of nature” with up to life imprisonment. In 2013, the Indian Supreme Court reversed an earlier Delhi High Court decision that had held section 377 to be unconstitutional, on the grounds that this is a matter for the people and their elected representatives, not the courts. At that time, some leaders associated with the Sangh Parivar remarked that homosexuality to be against Indian culture. What we have here, in reality, is a case where supposed defenders of Indian culture, and presumably Hinduism as well, from “western influence” are not only wrong, but seem to be the ones acting under the very influence they seek to protect against.

Victor Bruce, 9th Earl of ElginLet’s settle the obvious first. Section 377 is a product of Victorian [Christian] social mores. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report titled This Alien Legacy describes how laws in over three dozen countries, from India to Uganda and Nigeria to Papua New Guinea, derive from a single law on homosexual conduct that the British colonial rulers imposed on India in 1860. The report demonstrates that the British saw conquered cultures as morally lax on sexuality. British viceroy Lord Elgin warned that British soldiers could succumb to “replicas of Sodom and Gomorrah” as they acquired the “special Oriental vices.”

“Colonial legislators and jurists introduced such laws with no debates or cultural consultations, to support colonial control,” the report says.  “They believed laws could inculcate European morality into resistant masses. They brought in the legislation, in fact, because they thought “native” cultures did not punish “perverse” sex enough. The colonized needed compulsory re-education in sexual mores. Imperial rulers held that, as long as they sweltered through the promiscuous proximities of settler societies, “native” viciousness and “white” virtue had to be segregated: the latter praised and protected, the former policed and kept subjected.”

Bible & CrossBritish leaders of the Victorian era acted against homosexual conduct based on their understanding of the famous Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah or the book of Leviticus that homosexuals were, simply by virtue of that conduct, denied entry into heaven.  Moreover, according to the HRW report, notions of polluting sex from which sodomy laws were derived, “traced to an old strain of Christian theology that held sexual pleasure itself to be contaminating, tolerable only to the degree that it furthered reproduction (specifically, of Christians).”  

What does Hinduism have to say on all of this? We at the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) believe that a genuine Hindu approach to this matter, just as on any social issue, must not only turn to, but draw on the distinction between srutis (scriptures like the Vedas and Upanishads that enunciate eternal truths) and smritis (those that detail social laws and practices bound by time, place, and circumstance like the Manu Smriti and Yagnavalkya Smriti). Smritis are time bound and subject to change, and such bifurcation, which is unique to Hinduism, underpins HAF’s approach to LGBT rights.  

Hindu sruti texts don’t address sexual orientation at all or indeed social issues in general. They state that every being is an eternal soul, or atman, incarnate and that the ultimate goal of life is not heaven, but rather moksha, freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Moksha is attained by one’s real self, or atman, which is distinct from one’s physical body and personality (ego) as well as outer attributes such as race, caste, gender, and sexual orientation.

Progress towards moksha comes through yogic spiritual practices, and the attainment of moksha implies transcending material desires and impulses, including sexual ones. To put it provocatively, an LGBT person who has mastered his or her impulses (sexual or otherwise) is actually closer to moksha than a non-LGBT person who is a slave to desires. Thus, unlike in other faiths, Hindus cannot point to anything in the sruti texts that supports treating LGBT persons as being inferior to non-LGBT persons, let alone supports their persecution.

Prof Arvind SharmaThe smritis, which are said to have laid down social laws historically, have imbibed the perspective of the srutis and have never advocated broad-based, harsh punishments for homosexuality. Professor Arvind Sharma, a Hindu academic at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, states in his essay on Homosexuality and Hinduism:*

“It appears from the foregoing account that, save for the emphasis on renunciation, Hinduism is a sex-positive religion in relation to all the (other) three ends of human life – dharma, artha, kama….”

The Manusmriti, to quote a favourite bugbear of many, does express mild opposition to the practice, but prescribes such quixotic punishments as bathing in public with your clothes on! (Manusmriti, 11:75) The most stringent punishment, that of cutting off two fingers (or shaving the head and riding a donkey), is prescribed for an older woman who has a relationship with a young virgin (ibid, 8:370). But the concern here is on virginity, not homosexuality. For the exact same, punishment of cutting off two fingers (plus a fine of 600 panas of gold) is prescribed for a man who violates a virgin woman just a few verses earlier (ibid, 8:367). And there is no such punishment in the case of two older women.

Thus, not only do the srutis lay absolutely no bar on moksha for LGBT persons, the codes of conduct of ancient India seem to have largely ignored the LGBT phenomenon, rather than persecute them. Prof. Arvind Sharma also points out that if traditional Balinese culture is taken to represent an older and at least a trans-Indian form of Hinduism, the Hindu attitude to homosexuality is one of mild amusement bordering on indifference. The Hindu epics mention several characters who demonstrate a range of sexual orientations and gender identities, including Shikhandi, Chitrangada (wife of Arjuna and mother of Babruvahana), and Brihannala from the Mahabharata. None of these characters are discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Rather, they are all treated with respect, and judged by their abilities rather than their sexuality.  

Ardhanarisvara (c.1800)The Arthashastra and the Kama Sutra have numerous mentions of LGBT individuals in various professions free from any persecution. And the stories of Ardhanareeshwara (Shiva as half-man, half-woman) and Lord Ayyappa (born to Shiva and Vishnu as Mohini) indicate the subtle approach that Hinduism adopts towards matters of gender.

Given all this, a Hindu approach towards LGBT issues in India would argue for scrapping Section 377. The wisdom of the old Hindu attitude can be seen when one reflects on the consequences of calling all LGBT persons “criminals.” The law relegates some people to inferior status based solely on how they look or who they love, invades their privacy, and degrades their dignity. It provides ample opportunity for political vendetta by other means as it can be used to discredit enemies, destroy lives, and provide a police force that is already perceived to be corrupt with a powerful tool to abuse innocent people. It also drives LGBT persons to live their life “underground.” HAF believes that scrapping Section 377 should be a part of the Modi’s government’s social agenda. Even the RSS indicated its support shortly after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and just this week, India’s Union Law Minister Sadananda Gowda opened the door to repeal Section 377 and same sex marriage legalization in India.

Indian lesbian couple Baljit Kaur and Rajwinder Kaur Despite Gowda’s surprising statement on the matter, however, his subsequent claims to have been misquoted indicates that the transition to full marriage equality in India is likely to be a long process. America’s move to full marriage equality for LGBT persons came after a public struggle of over 30 years.  It was also preceded by the notion of “civil unions” in which many states accorded most secular benefits to LGBT couples, although not the religious sacrament of marriage. Civil unions could be an intermediate step in India as well, as it would help address several issues which have no religious basis by themselves. This includes employment benefits for LGBT partners, differences in tax and insurance rates, protection against discrimination in employment, housing, hotels, hospital visitations, property inheritance etc.  HAF supported marriage equality for all Americans, and we submitted amicus briefs in various US courts, including the US Supreme Court to this end.

Same Sex SaptapadiBut what about marriage equality for LGBT Hindus?  It must be emphasized that India actually has a long history of wedding rites for hijras, who are transgender people. And in recent years, some Hindu priests and same-sex couples in the US have adapted and found acceptance in traditional Hindu wedding rituals, especially in the Saptapadi, a key marriage ritual that enunciates seven vows of an ideal Hindu marriage.  The vows remind every couple about the true purpose of a life partnership: (i) nourishing one another; (ii) growing strong together; (iii) fulfilling spiritual obligations; (iv) working towards happiness and fulfillment through mutual respect; (v) working for the welfare of all living beings through raising virtuous children; (vi) praying for bountiful seasons which they may go through together, just as they would share their joys and sorrows; and (vii) praying for a life of understanding, loyalty, and companionship not only for themselves, but also for universal peace.  

Muslim, Hindu, & Christian leaders for Section 377Like other legal rights, the right to marriage may compete with the right to religious freedom. Sampradayas, temples, religious leaders, and priests thus have an inalienable right to define marriage in conformity with their traditions, as they continue to interpret and reinterpret them over time.  And because Hinduism has no central authority that controls theology, different groups are free to move as fast or slow as they desire on the religious front.  So while religious rites of same-sex marriage continue to evolve (and in many cases, not), governments (at least in the US and several other nations around the world), no longer discriminate in the matter of marriage as a legal right or social contract. We believe that this concept – namely that there remain freedom in the realm of religion to define and/or adapt the definition of marriage, but that governments should no longer discriminate and hold some marriages to be legal but not others – is an important nuance that is rarely articulated in Indian public discourse.  It also becomes especially relevant given the magnificent diversity of cultural practices within India and the lack of a uniform civil code in the country.

Krishna & Gopa KumarBut before India can actually discuss the issue of marriage equality of any sort, it will need to abrogate Section 377 first. As Hindus grapple with LGBT rights under Indian law, HAF suggests that the following should be key considerations:

1. We need to work with the scientific and medical conclusions that LGBT orientations occur naturally in a small percentage of most life forms. These are not acquired habits, and certainly not a disorder, handicap, or “disease to be cured.”

2. Hindu teachings hold the inherent spiritual equality of all beings, regardless of outer attributes.  As such, Hindus should not reject or socially ostracize LGBT individuals, but should accept them as fellow sojourners on the path to moksha.

3. Hinduism has wisely separated the spiritual from the social and allows for the understanding and interpretation of customs to change over time. Various historical smritis are testament to such changes, and even in ancient times, smriti never advocated broad-based, harsh punishments for homosexuality.

At HAF, we believe that it is important for Hindu leaders, both religious and lay, to work within our sruti/smriti framework to evolve a uniquely Hindu perspective on LGBT rights, rather than follow existing social mores in India which are profoundly influenced by non-Indic sensitivities. Colonialism physically left India decades ago.  It’s high time Indians let its social and psychological hold go too. – Swarajya, 4 Jul, 2015


* Prof Arvind Sharma is the Birks Chair of Comparative Religion at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. See “Homosexuality and Hinduism” in Arlene Swidler, Homosexuality and World Religions, Valley Forge, PA; Trinity Press International, 1993: pp 47- 80.

Demonstration against Section 377 in New Delhi
Demonstration against Section 377

See also

India’s ideological civil war – M. Vidyasagar

Prof M. Vidyasagar“I was born on September 29, 1947—just 45 days after Independence.  My entire life has been wasted by the pro-poverty agenda of the Congress Party (disguised as a “pro-poor” agenda).  Each time a potential saviour appears on the horizon, be it Jayaprakash Narayan in 1975, or the first NDA government in 1998, or now the Narendra Modi government, the dynasty strikes back with ever greater force.” – Prof  M. Vidyasagar

Narendra ModiIndia is at present undergoing a civil war.  This civil war is not being fought on a conventional battlefield, but in the battlefield of people’s minds.  The armaments used to fight this war are not conventional weapons, but rather, the weapons of disinformation.

On one side is the present government led by Narendra Modi and its well-wishers.  On the other side is a horde that is unwilling to accept the democratic verdict of the people of India, and/or unable to accept that a person starting his life in humble circumstances has risen to the position of Prime Minister.

By now it is clear that the dynastic Congress Party has systematically entrenched poverty as a permanent feature of the Indian landscape.  In order to perpetuate the poverty of Indians, the Congress party consciously imprisoned Indian citizens in a vast web of government rules and regulations, and perverted every institution in democratic India, including the judiciary and the media.

In order to legitimize its stranglehold on Indian society, the dynasty has also created a vast ecosystem consisting of “the poverty industry” in the form of NGOs whose survival demands that India remain a desperately poor country, or at the very least, is perceived to be so.  Thus, when the outcome of the 2014 election was not in favour of the dynasty, the Congress could summon up all of its foot soldiers in the judiciary, the media, and the most inappropriately named “civil society.”

What else can explain the daily dose of misinformation in the media?  For the past many months, we have had a plethora of accounts of “church attacks,” most of which were debunked as being either inside jobs or simple law and order problems.  The rape of a nun in West Bengal was instantly attributed to “militant Hindus emboldened by the election of Modi,” until it was discovered that the perpetrators were Bangladeshi Muslims.

Rahul GandhiJust a couple of days ago, we had one Misbah Quadri claiming that she was denied housing in an apartment complex merely because she was a Muslim.  Even the most inexperienced cub reporter would have gone to the housing complex in question and verified in person whether in fact the complex was “Muslim-free.”  But our journalists sitting in their air-conditioned offices were happy to enough to accept this victimhood narrative at face value and play it up for all it was worth.

A minor newspaper, Mid-Day in Mumbai, was apparently the only media agency to take the trouble of visiting the complex in question, to find that there are already Muslims living there (thus blowing Quadri’s story to smithereens), and unearthing the fact that Quadri was being evicted because she did not maintain her payments.

But the rest found it all too expedient to persist with their false narrative of Muslim persecution in “Modi’s India.”

Even as that particular hatchet job on the government blew up in the faces of its perpetrators, comes another one that IIT Madras “banned” a “student group” for “having criticized the Prime Minister.”  The Dean of Students at IITM has already stated that the group was provisionally de-recognized because it did not follow procedures, but none of that could be heard in the din.

By jumping into the fray at IITM merely to score some cheap points against the HRD Minister, opposition parties and the corrupted media are again showing that they do not care a whit for the welfare of Indian society, and that their sole interest is in regaining power by hook or crook.

The IITs are among our finest educational institutions, a stark contrast to JNU which is a cesspool of politics and mediocrity.  Over-politicization of the “student body” at any institution can have only one outcome: JNU-ization, if I might coin a phrase.  This is why I was adamantly opposed to the introduction of humanities departments in the IITs.  While in theory, these subjects are supposed to broaden the minds of the students, the reality is that such departments attract intellectually inferior minds for the most part.

Indian MediaLet us not remain under any illusion that the Quadri affair or the IITM affair will be the last.  As soon as one issue gets resolved, the media will throw up 10 others, like a hydra-headed monster for which it is a proxy.  This is why I call it a civil war.  Or perhaps one should borrow from Christian mythology and call it Armageddon, the final decisive battle between the forces of good and evil.

I was born on September 29, 1947—just 45 days after Independence.  My entire life has been wasted by the pro-poverty agenda of the Congress Party (disguised as a “pro-poor” agenda).  Each time a potential saviour appears on the horizon, be it Jayaprakash Narayan in 1975, or the first NDA government in 1998, or now the Narendra Modi government, the dynasty strikes back with ever greater force.

Each one of these prospective saviours has had a more difficult task compared to his predecessor, because the forces of evil get more and more entrenched after each victory.  For me, the present government offers the last hope that India would become a worthwhile country within my lifetime.  If we as a nation miss this opportunity to uproot the forces of evil once and for all, then I at least won’t be around for our next opportunity, assuming that it will come at all.

There is only one glimmer of hope on the horizon. Until now, the corrupt media has had a monopoly on information dissemination, and could thus control the narrative.  With the rise of social media, that monopoly has been broken.  But the breaking of the monopoly does NOT, by itself, weaken the hold that the corrupt media has on our collective fortunes.  The rest of us must seize that opening and provide a fully competitive alternative to the distorted, anti-national garbage that is constantly being put out by the media.  We cannot afford to be complacent, nor can we afford to underestimate the magnitude of the task at hand.

To repeat: India is in a civil war.  As Lord Krishna told Arjuna: “Yuddhaaya krita nischayah.” You must fight with full vigour. – Swarajya, 30 May 2015

» Prof Mathukumalli Vidyasagar is a leading control theorist and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is currently the Cecil & Ida Green (II) Professor of Systems Biology Science at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Rahul Gandhi

Why Christianity poses a threat to India – Rakesh Krishnan Simha

Nasrani or Syrian Christians of Kerala

Rakesh Krishnan Simha“Under the cloak of democracy, Christian missionaries can sneak in and conduct their unholy work among the poor and helpless. Christian churches have cropped up like a rash across the east coast after the tsunami hit southern India. Nagaland, which was entirely animist, despite two centuries of British rule, became 100 per cent Christian under 50 years of democratic—or rather Nehru-Gandhi dynasty—rule.” — Rakesh Krishnan Simha

India Crossed-OutChristianity poses a clear threat to India

If you could sum up the history of Christianity in India in one word, that word would be ingratitude. Among the earliest refugees to arrive in India were the Syrian Christians, who were facing persecution in their native lands in the Persian Empire in the fourth century CE.

Persecution would be the wrong word to use here because the Syrian Christians of the Persian Empire were found to be collaborating with Christianised Rome. Aghast at the betrayal by his Christian subjects—in the midst of Persia’s war with the Romans—the Zoroastrian king Shapur II lamented: “We are in a state of war; they are in a state of joy and pleasure. They live in our land but are of like mind with the emperor, our enemy.”

Shahpur II deported some Christians from his Eastern Syrian province and imposed a double tax on those that remained. The Christian subjects were then ordered to revert to their native Zoroastrian religion.

Down on their luck, the Syrian Christians sought refuge in India. Kerala’s Malabar coast attracted them because they had heard of an ancient community of Jews who had been living there since the first century CE, having also fled the turmoil of the Middle East.

How were these Syrian Christians—or Nasranis as they are still called by the locals—treated? “The Indian king received them with great kindness,” George David Malech writes in History of the Syrian Nation and the Old Evangelical-Apostolic Church of the East.

“At the Kotem school in Malabar there are still some copper tablets in existence on which there are written messages from the king to the Christian leader, permitting him and his followers to settle in some places and recommending them to neighbouring chiefs.”

In fact, around the time (1498 CE) when the Portuguese marauders led by Vasco Da Gama arrived in Malabar, the Syrian Christian community was thriving, with at least 30,000 members. Now, here’s how they repaid India’s generosity. When Da Gama returned for the second time in 1502, he was met by a delegation of Syrian Christians: “They identified themselves, surrendered their ancient honours and documents, and invited him to make war on their Hindu king,” writes Ishwar Sharan in The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple.

According to George Menachery, a Catholic apologist and former adviser to the Kerala State Department of Archaeology, the Syrian Christians presented Da Gama “a ‘Rod of Justice’ and swore allegiance to the Portuguese king and implored Portuguese protection.”

K. M. Panikkar elaborates in Malabar and the Portuguese: “More than this they suggested to [Vasco da Gama] that with their help he should conquer the Hindu kingdoms and invited him to build a fortress for this purpose in Cranganore [Kodungallur]. This was the recompense which the Hindu rajas received for treating with liberality and kindness the Christians in their midst.

Author and researcher Sanjay Subrahmanyam, no friend of Hindus, writes in the extensively annotated The Career and Legend of Vasco Da GamaThe perspective of the Syrian Christians on early Portuguese activities in Kerala is an interesting one; they clearly support their co-religionists, rather than the local rulers….

In a letter of late 1524, the Syrian Christian bishop Mar Jacob writes after recounting all his actions in favour of the Portuguese Crown: “This, Sire, is the service that I have done in these parts, with the intention of moving you to the help me in the expansion of these people [Syrian Christians] through this India in the faith of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.”

Subrahmanyam continues: “In the same context, he hence offered the aid of the Syrian Christians as an auxiliary military force, to aid the Portuguese, claiming that they represent ‘over 25,000 warriors.‘” The bishop requests Vasco Da Gama to intercede—that is use military force—on behalf of the Syrian Christian community. Mar Jacob also proposed the construction of a Portuguese fortress at Cranganore, a proposal that was put into effect a decade later, in 1536, paving the way for the Portuguese colonisation.

However, once they had cynically used the help of the traitorous community, the fanatic Portuguese persecuted the Syrian Christians with a vengeance, and forced them—on pain of death—to abandon their ancient Orthodox church and swear allegiance to Roman Catholicism.

Vasco da Gama & Zamorin of Calicut

Flash forward to the 20th century

The history of Kerala Christians—who today comprise around 20 per cent of the State’s population—hasn’t exactly been exemplary in modern times. In the early 1970s when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was publicly denouncing the threat of CIA subversion of India, the US ambassador in New Delhi, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ordered an investigation into the matter.

The US embassy uncovered two occasions during Indira’s father Jawaharlal Nehru’s premiership when the CIA had secretly provided funds to help the communists’ opponents in state elections. The first occasion was in the 1950s, in Kerala, where cash was supplied to the Syrian Christian Church to destabilise the democratically elected Communist Party of India. According to Moynihan, “Both times the money was given to the Congress Party which had asked for it. Once it was given to Mrs Gandhi herself, who was then a party official.”

Just like the Syrian Christians backed their western co-religionists over the local Hindu and Muslim communities, with whom they had co-existed—and from whose help they had thrived, prospered, and gentrified—modern Indian Christians look up to the West, especially the United States. In their view, America, being the most Christian nation, should help them in keeping India—and thereby Hindus—in line.

Role of Christians in India’s Partition

In a paper titled The Role of Christians in the Freedom Movement of Pakistan published in the Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences, Munir-ul-Anjum and Shahnaz Tariq write: “The support of Christians for the cause of Pakistan was based on their belief that the Muslim society in its nature was more secular than the caste ridden Hindu society hence more permissive for the rights and safe guards of the religious minorities.”

“Christians strongly supported Quaid-e-Azam and Muslim League at that critical time when there was lot of opposition to the formation a new Muslim state. The All India Christian Association assured unconditional full cooperation to the founder of Pakistan. This crucial role of Christian population of the region was recognised by the founder of Pakistan and the All India Muslim League at all levels. These Christians played a very strong role in the creation of Pakistan…. The Christian vote before the Boundary Commission was the only decisive vote for the true foundation of Pakistan. Christian leaders voted for Pakistan because they believed that Quaid-e-Azam would be the real protector of their rights and interests.”

“When the proceedings of the Boundary Commission took place, Christian leaders Dewan Bahadur S. P. Singha, C. E. Gibbon and Fazal Elahi, in their recorded statement, demanded that for the demarcation of the boundaries, the Christian population be included and termed as Muslim population.”

“In the last days of united India Jinnah visited Lahore as a part of his campaign to fetch the support of the minority community for Pakistan. He met the Christian leader Chandu Lal and Sikh leader Giani Kartar Singh. The Sikh leader turned down his offer while Chandu Lal declared unconditional support of the Christians for Pakistan. When the resolution to join Pakistan or India was moved and voted upon in the Punjab Legislative Assembly, the three Christian members voted in favour of Pakistan and saved the situation. Eighty-eight and 91 votes were cast in favour of India and Pakistan respectively. In this way the three Christian votes decided the fate of the province.” 

However, not content with the creation of Pakistan, the Christians “denounced and condemned the unfair distribution of Punjab province more forcefully even than the Muslims and tried their best to get the districts of Pathankot and Gurdaspur included in western Punjab”.

Bishop of Tuticorin Roman Catholic Diocese Rt. Rev. Yvon Ambroise

Are Christians a fifth column?

Christian fundamentalists thrive on suffering and disaster. In February 2001, T. John, the Karnataka civil aviation minister and a member of the Orthodox church, described the Gujarat earthquake, which resulted in death of over 20,000 people, as “the punishment of God to the people for ill-treating Christians and minorities in the state.”

John also saw a divine connection between attacks on Christians in Orissa and the cyclone that hit the region in December 1999, killing 10,000 people. This is nothing but vicarious pleasure at the expense of non-Christian Indians.

He wasn’t the only one expressing such sentiments. The tsunami in India—in which 10,136 people were killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless—was indeed a windfall for many American Churches which poured in billions of dollars to convert large numbers of poor fisher folk in the Kudankulam area.

Ten years later, these converts were unleashed against the crucial Kudankulam atomic power plant. In 2014, the Intelligence Bureau (IB)—India’s premier internal security agency—submitted a report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, identifying several foreign-funded NGOs that are “negatively impacting economic development”.

The IB report neatly ties in with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s claims that NGOs funded by the Americans were leading the protests against the Russian-built nuclear reactors in Kudankulam. That the maddeningly taciturn Singh would speak out—despite owing his prime ministership to his party boss, the pro-Christian and Catholic Sonia Gandhi—is an indication of the danger posed to India’s national security by forces being remote-controlled by the West.

The NGOs that were at the centre of the mass protests were associated with Bishop Yvon Ambroise, the Tuticorin Church leader, who had been active in the vicious campaign against the power plant.

In fact, there is evidence that the earliest Christian converts from Hinduism betrayed Indian interests. It also illustrates how Christians are easily coerced by their western masters.

Animalising—the process by which cotton is dyed—was a secret that remained a mystery to Europeans. Stephen Yafa explains in his book Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber how this trade secret was stolen: “Ironically it was a man of the cloth, Jesuit Father Coeurdoux, who betrayed these fiercely guarded secrets. In 1742 the French cleric took advantage of his missionary posting on the Coromandel coast to gain the trust of Indian master dyers who he had converted to Catholicism.

These Indian Christians confided their secret process to him with an understanding that he would never reveal it. And what the father do? “Coerdoux immediately gave a detailed description in a step-by-step letter published in France. In a blink, 3000 years of clandestine artisan practice became public knowledge.”

The point is not the betrayal by newly converted Indian Christians. To be sure, they had—albeit naively—asked the European priest to keep the secret to himself. The point is that this is exactly how Indian Christians can be used by their western masters. For instance, pressure can be applied on the family of a seemingly loyal Indian Christian who is, say, a rocket scientist at the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Pressure can come in a variety of ways but the most likely approach a western intelligence agency would take is to first approach the Christian scientist’s parish priest via the local bishop, who may be approached through someone in the Vatican.

Parish pressure is no joke. Hindus, who do not formally congregate under a priest, cannot understand how closely integrated the Church is with the families of local Christians in a particular area or parish. When this writer was studying in St Thomas College, Thrissur, Kerala, he was witness to priests, some of who were lecturers, demanding to know why a particular student had skipped Sunday mass.

The family can be threatened with pariah status. For instance, many Kerala Christians who joined the Communist Party of India were denied burial services by the Church upon their deaths. This can be traumatic for the surviving members because the rest of the community members tend to treat them as outcastes. (Imagine the state of children who are not able to bury their dead father.)

Under such circumstances, transferring national secrets into a pen drive and handing them to an agent of a western intelligence agency might seem like a small inconvenience. To be sure, individual Christians in high-level positions may not be predisposed to betrayal. But because the entire Christian ecosystem is geared towards complete control of its flock, it’s unlikely many of them can stand the immense pressure brought to bear on them and their families. As Subrahmanyam writes, the Portuguese looked at Syrian Christians as a means to get “political and economic mileage”. Similarly, today’s Indian Christians are a means for the West to penetrate the higher echelons of power in New Delhi.

Onesimus & Paul

Why Christianity has no place in India

Some argue the caste system in Hinduism is unfair to the lower castes and hence Christianity can lift them by treating them as equals. That’s probably the lamest argument in favour of the Abrahamic faith. For, if Christianity has not made, say, Europeans or Americans, better human beings, what makes them think it will make Indians any better?

First up, racism is at all-time high levels in the West. American Christian Churches quoted the Bible to give approval to the slave trade. Today, black Christians are again being lynched by white Christians in America. What can they teach India about equality?

Also, despite the horrendous bloodshed of two world wars, these Christian nations are still at each other’s throats and still bombing innocent civilians around the world. And if events in Ukraine are any indication, European Christians haven’t learnt anything at all and are creating a situation that could lead to World War III.

At any rate, caste schisms among Indian Christians mirror the caste divisions in Hinduism. “Conversion to Christianity does not seem to eradicate caste prejudice in India any more than it eliminates racial discrimination in the US. Despite Jesus’ call for brotherly love, isn’t Sunday the most segregated day in America?” writes C. Alex Alexander, a naturalised US citizen and former Chief of Staff, US Department of Veterans Affairs in a detailed expose of the Christian threat to India.

Caste segregated Christian graveyard in Tamil Nadu

There are others some who argue that converted Hindus will remain Indians, and therefore where’s the problem with conversion? Well, there is a major problem and Swami Vivekananda set it in the founding document of the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897. If India embraces a foreign religion, he wrote, “Indian civilisation will be destroyed. For whomever goes out of the Hindu religion is not only lost to us but also we have in him one more enemy.”

Because the West has usurped the soul of Christianity, Christianisation—like Islamisation—equals denationalisation. Western missionaries who were rampaging through China in the 1940s were fond of the line, “One more Christian, one less Chinese.”

Religious conversion is therefore a flick of a switch that transforms an Indian—or for that matter any follower of a native religion—into an extension of western culture and influence.

In his book The Armies Of God: A Study In Militant Christianity, Iain Buchanan, a British-born, Malaysia-based academic, has explained how Christianity imported from the West can cause havoc in developing countries. In an interview with DNA newspaper, he says“There is no doubt at all that US strategy makes deliberate (and somewhat cynical) use of Christian agencies in pursuit of foreign policy – and that the distinction between the religious and the secular is deliberately blurred in the process…. Most of the major evangelical corporations (like World Vision, Campus Crusade, Youth with a Mission, and Samaritan’s Purse) operate in partnership with the US government in its pursuit of foreign policy—World Vision, which is effectively an arm of the State Department, is perhaps the most notable example of this.”

What does this mean, in practice, for a targeted country?

“Above all, it means that it is often very difficult to distinguish the agencies of evangelization. Active Christian proselytization is often just a small part of the process; in addition, there must be infiltration of every sector of influence in a society, from religious groups to government departments to local charities to private business, in ways which blur the line between Christian indoctrination and secular change.”

Alex Alexander agrees: “Self-professedly Christian pressure groups have both a highly influential membership and a powerful grip on policy. The network of evangelical influence goes far beyond this: there are scores of such groups at work in Congress, the military, and departments of state. All act to connect politics, business, the media, and the military with one another in pursuit of a common vision of a Christian American dominion over the world.”

It is well-known that Indian Christians in cahoots with fundamentalist American politicians, Church groups and Indian Marxists played a leading role in getting Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned from entering the US for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat religious riots.

However, Christians have been working against Indian interests even prior to that. In September 2000 when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in the US on an official visit, Christian fundamentalist John Dayal appeared before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington DC.

According to Alexander, the virulently anti-Hindu “Dayal should have thought of the possibility that the timing of that invitation extended to him by USCIRF was not an accident. It is quite likely it was part of the US State Department’s plan to place the visiting Prime Minister on his defensive and thereby weaken India’s efforts to convey to the American public the destructive consequences of cross-border terrorism aided and abetted by Pakistan.”

Alexander offers an example of the West-Christianity nexus: “A page from the recent history of East Timor may be appropriate for Indians to review in order to understand the negative potential of offshore proselytisation. The indigenous tribes in that island were first converted to Christianity by Dutch and Portuguese missionaries. Then they were helped by the western nations to secede from Indonesia. India may run similar risks if it continues to allow foreign missionaries to have unfettered access to its tribal populations.”

Indeed, the activities of Christian missionaries can cause turmoil as it did on a massive scale in 1857. Historian R. C. Majumdar wrote: “The sensitiveness of the sepoys to their religious beliefs and practices and the dread of conversion to Christianity worked as a nightmare upon their minds…. A vague dread that the government was determined, by hook or by crook, to convert the Indians to Christianity pervaded all ranks of society, and the sepoys, fully shared these apprehensions with the rest…. The aggressive attitude of the Christian missionaries … in matters of proselytisation had been frequent subjects of complaint.

Among such aggressive activities, Majumdar noted the practice of missionaries of “open unchecked denunciation of their cherished social usages and customs in most violent language, and filthy abuses of their gods and goddesses by bands of Christian missionaries.
John Paull II & Hindu Swami (1999)

Myth of passive Christians

Outwardly, Christianity might appear to be a benign religion. Indeed, when compared with the aggressive face of Islam, it definitely appears to the tamer Abrahamic sister. In “Why Christianity Failed in India,” Tony Joseph writes in Outlook magazine that after 2000 years of trying to convert India, Christians form just around 2 per cent of the population. However, he misses the point entirely.

Christianity did not grow much during the centuries preceding the period of European colonialism because the early Christians were refugees and not keen on converting native Indians. Again, during the colonial period, when hordes of missionary Europeans waded into India, the pace of conversion failed to pick up because Indians knew who the enemy was—Christian Europeans, who came to destroy Indian civilisation just as they destroyed Native American and Australian Aboriginal cultures.

Today, the Europeans are gone but their agenda remains. Where earlier you could spot a Christian or evangelist by the colour of their skin, now they are in our midst. They have names like Mahesh Bhupathi, whose mother once said, “My burden is for India, since in this country we fight with about 33 million other gods.” Had she not uttered those tasteless remarks, nobody would have been the wiser to her and her son’s proselytization activities.

Under the cloak of democracy, Christian missionaries can sneak in and conduct their unholy work among the poor and helpless. Christian churches have cropped up like a rash across the east coast after the tsunami hit southern India. Nagaland, which was entirely animist, despite two centuries of British rule, became 100 per cent Christian under 50 years of democratic—or rather Nehru-Gandhi dynasty—rule.

Christianity has not—yet—failed in India. With powerful backers in the West, it is preparing for another big harvest. While visiting India in 1999, the Pope openly proclaimed his wish to “witness a great harvest of faith” there through the Christianisation of the entire country. Predictably, it led to a backlash from Hindus who felt threatened—and betrayed—by the huge crowds of Indian Christians who turned out to greet the Pope.

Breaking India

Christian leaders and organisations in sync with western NGOs and Church backed bodies are playing a divisive game aimed at breaking India. Author Rajiv Malhotra has exposed this with abundant evidence in the book Breaking India, which he co-authored with Aravindan Neelakandan.

According to Malhotra, US and European churches, academics, think-tanks, foundations, government and human rights groups play an aggressive role in fostering separation of the identities of Dravidian and Dalit communities from the rest of India.

Koenraad Elst says, “There is a vicious attempt to delegitimise Hinduism as India’s native religion, and to mobilise the weaker sections of Hindu society against it with ‘blood and soil’ slogans.”

Seeing how the nativist movement in the Americas is partly directed against Christianity because of its historical aggression against native society (in spite of Liberation Theology’s attempts to recuperate the movement), the Indian Church tries to take over this nativist tendency and forge it into a weapon against Hinduism.

Christian involvement in the so-called Dalit (“oppressed”) and Adivasi (“aboriginal”) movements is an attempt to channel the nativist revival and perversely direct it against native society itself. It advertises its services as the guardian of the interests of the “true natives” (meaning the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) against native society, while labelling the upper castes as “Aryan invaders”, on the basis of an outdated theory postulating an immigration in 1500 BC.

Elst adds: “To declare people ‘invaders’ because of a supposed immigration of some of their ancestors 3500 years ago is an unusual feat of political hate rhetoric in itself, but the point is that it follows a pattern of earlier rounds of Christian aggression. It is Cortes all over again: Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, could defeat the Aztecs, the ruling nation which had immigrated from Utah three centuries earlier, by enlisting the support of nations subdued by the Aztecs, with himself posing as their liberator (of course, they were to regret their ‘liberation’). The attempt to divide the people of a country on an ethnic basis—whether it is a real ethnic distinction as in the case of Cortes’ Mexico, or a wilfully invented one as in the case of India—is an obvious act of hostility, unmistakably an element of warfare.

“Therefore, ‘without any restriction’, Christians are teaching some sections of Hindu society hatred against other sections. You don’t normally try to create hostility between your friends, so the Church’s policy to pit sections of Hindu society against one another should be seen for what it is: an act of aggression, which warrants an active policy of self-defence and counter-attack. This counter-attack should take a proper form, adapted to the genius of Hinduism.”

From allying with the fanatic Portuguese to siding with the murderous Muslim League mobs of the 1940s, Indian Christians have shown an unbelievably stupid and opportunistic streak. Their Abrahamic compass is fixed due west and there’s little hope Christians will suddenly become nationalist. For, identifying with the Indian nation-state would also imply acceptance of Hinduism. That, more than anything, is incompatible with the Christian worldview. Former top cop Julio Ribeiro and Supreme Court judge Kurian Joseph—who both railed against the Indian nation-state—are living symbols of this incompatibility. In this backdrop, Ghar Wapsi-–or reverting of Christians to Hinduism—is not such a bad idea after all. – IndiaFacts, 18 May 2015

» Rakesh Krishnan Simha is a New Zealand-based journalist and foreign affairs analyst, with a special interest in defence and military history. He is a columnist with the Rossiyskaya Gazeta group, Moscow, and Modern Diplomacy, a Europe-based foreign affairs portal.

World Vision India

Sitaram Yechury: Indian Left’s disconnect with Indian ethos remains unchanged – Balbir Punj

Balbir Punj“The Indian Left has seldom been on the same page as with rest of India in its over 80-year history. The communists opposed the Quit India movement, vilified and abused national leaders such as Gandhiji and Netaji and spied on freedom fighters for the British empire. When most Indians wanted … a unified India, the communists, hand in glove with the Muslim League, successfully worked for the creation of a theocratic Pakistan. … Yechury has proved that his party is the Taliban’s counterpart in India.” – Balbir Punj

Sitaram YechuryWhen JNU’s bright student and Marxist intellectual Sitaram Yechury took over the leadership of the CPM, even his enemies felt that here was a man for the season in a party that was increasingly becoming irrelevant to Indian politics. But his taking up cudgels against a national movement to project yoga as a worldwide body-mind fitness programme has proved the cliche that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Even worse is his comparing yoga postures to the morning stretching by dogsSitaram Yechury's pet Yog-Dog. Yechury’s opposition to yoga, however, underlines the fact that the Indian Left has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. It’s disconnect with the Indian ethos and interests remains unchanged.

In fact, it is not surprising given the fact that the Indian Left has seldom been on the same page as with rest of India in its over 80-year history. The communists opposed the Quit India movement, vilified and abused national leaders such as Gandhiji and Netaji and spied on freedom fighters for the British empire.

When most Indians wanted the British to leave behind a unified India, the communists, hand in glove with the Muslim League, successfully worked for the creation of a theocratic Pakistan. They waged an armed war against independent India in 1948, sided with aggressor China in 1962 and joined anti-Indian forces in denouncing India after the nation went nuclear under the NDA. So Yechury’s tirade against yoga is of no surprise. Yoga must be opposed and condemned by the CPM because of its Indian origins, irrespective of its global acceptance and proven benefits. It reminds one of the Taliban’s senseless opposition to polio eradication programme in parts of Pakistan because of its western origins. By opposing yoga, Yechury has proved that his party is the Taliban’s counterpart in India.

The Taliban portrays anti-polio campaign in Pakistan as a conspiracy by Western imperialism and the Church, CPM sees yoga as an extension of BJP’s Hindutva agenda! The fact is, both polio eradication programme and yoga are ideology- and religion-neutral and are aimed at the well-being of humanity.

When ambassadors from a host of countries from the US to Japan are found among the yoga enthusiasts participating at the Rajpath show, when across the world in New York, London, Paris or Beijing people are gladly practising yogic postures, where is the question of a Hindutva agenda?

The CPM leader, however, does not stop at accusing the International Yoga Day resolution of the UN endorsed by 190 nations as a partisan agenda of the Modi government. He goes overboard, perceiving in it “a tactic adopted by dictators in the past”.

Surely, the Marxist who found virtue in such dictators as Stalin, Mao, North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, Cambodian butcher Pol Pot, Cuba’s Castro, among other communists, has such a warped mind that he fears seeds of dictatorship in an internationally hailed body-mind health movement and greatness in communist-led wholesale killing of innocents.

B.K.S. IyengarFrom Patanjali to B. K. S. Iyengar, did the communist leader find even a trace of dictatorship in the vast and varied literature and practitioners of yoga? Even stranger is Yechury’s accusation that celebrating an Indian contribution to global civilisation is meant to “divert attention from basic issues confronting people” like malnutrition and hunger. He remembers that some 190 million people in the country are below poverty line.

One may ask this Marxist intellectual whether asking people to read Tagore or listen to Ravi Shankar’s sitar recital is also a diversionary tactic? In fact, building body-mind harmony is by all criteria part of creating a nation that can better resolve the extreme and complex issues of solving the burning problems of people.

Both leadership and the common man need the discipline of body and mind to deal with the humongous problems of poverty. For one who heads a party that ruled West Bengal for 34 years and left the state and people so frustrated that they overthrew his party wholesale from power, such accusations betray his anti-people past and a future of increasing irrelevance that is staring at his party’s poverty of ideas.

The Marxist leader fails to see any virtue in the promotion of yoga. This is in line with the Marxist thinking that seems to say that true thought began only with Marx. And this mindset is close to the marauding Taliban who want the world to accept on pain of being butchered or buried alive—a daily practice in Islamist held parts of West Asia—that their creed alone has monopoly of divine truth.

Nationalism is anathema to the Marxists. Their guru had proclaimed proletarian unity across countries will emerge out of the dialectic process of the intensifying class war. National boundaries and specific national symbols were to dissolve in the emergence of proletarian internationalism. “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing but your chains to lose” was the clarion call of Marx. But 20th century saw Russian and Chinese communism, Stalin and Mao at loggerheads. It saw communist China marching its forces into communist Vietnam and communist Vietnam driving communist leaders of Cambodia into exile.

Marxism died in Russia and the once-communist Putin is now Putin, the Russian nationalist. How communism in North Korea, one of the very few last bastions of Marx’s heaven on earth morphed into a family dictatorship of the worst order challenges Marx’s vision as naïve and untrue.

Narendra ModiYet another Marxian utopia, Cuba, is also changing after subjecting its dissidents into lifelong prison and its people into primitive poverty. As for Red China, free market came to its rescue even as its proletarian dictatorship has meant that even a blind intellectual and dissident had to be locked up in his own house with walls raised high and soldiers keeping constant watch.

What happened to East Germany, where the regime sought to surround the country to prevent its people from escaping the Marxist utopia with a huge concrete and steel wall for decades, is also part of recent history.

The refusal of Marxists like Yechury to take pride in their own nation’s ancient achievements is in line with the West Asian Taliban who physically destroy the monuments of their own past. That leads us to understand why the invading Turks burnt the great library of Alexandria in the mid-15th century and the marauding Ghaznis and Ghoris as well as their later avatars like Aurangzeb could not tolerate the magnificent and the sacred in India.

Such hatred for the past glories of your own country and people lead to Kashmiri extremists driving the Pandits out of the Valley. In the Indian Marxist’s hate speech against the yoga day observance, you see the same bitter intolerance of the Taliban working within the communist bonnet. – The New Indian Express, 27 June 2015

» Balbir Punj is national vice president, BJP. E-mail: punjbalbir@gmail.com

Sitaram Yechury

Harnessing heritage – Amita Sharma

Amita Sharma“The SandHI Series of articles that the Financial Chronicle hosted … were an effort to give a brief glimpse of the range and rigour of traditional Indian knowledge systems. They suggest strong reasons for integrating Indian knowledge systems in mainstream education as opportunities for discovery, research and interpretation of our intellectual inheritance. This will equip students to critically evaluate the information available and to construct knowledge free from the stereotype labelling of knowledge as ‘traditional,’ ‘modern,’ ‘east,’ ‘west.’” – Amita Sharma

RishiIf one were to represent the contemporary educational scenario in India dramatically, a morality play would probably be a good choice. A host of actors battle the ground for knowledge, each claiming to be truer than the other, accusing the other of ‘tempting the mind’ of the nation with falsehoods.

The more cacophonous the contestation becomes, the more it begins to look like a ‘dumb charade.’ Instead of enquiring into what ‘truth’ is — which, in fact, is the very essence of education and the only way in which knowledge is discovered — the skirmishing sides want the rights to lay down a set of pre-determined forms as truth, defeating the very ground of knowledge or the need for education.

Such claims and counter claims are about power, not about education and the struggle is to seize the education system to make it a means of generating symbolic forms — of whichever hue — that in turn, entrench the power system.

This is the worst form of intellectual paranoia and fundamentalism and is symptomatic of the failure of the education system to develop a culture of critical consciousness capable of rational debate, self-reflection, imbued with faculties to evaluate and sift information to construct know­ledge and to disc­riminate betw­een the spheres wh­ere such knowledge can be used. Where is the great intellectual tradition of India that delighted in debate and celebrated questioning as a way of seeking knowledge? Why has the freedom to let ‘thoughts…wander through eternity’ sunk into the narrow confines of dogmatic facts, swerving between defensiveness and aggression, unsure of what they claim and why.

While there are several reasons for this, the deep-lying malaise is the loss of self-esteem and pride and the confidence in our own intellectual abilities and identity. This is the result of a steady and subtle colonisation of the mind that may have started historically with British rule over India but that continues post-independence. Modern day educational systems perpetuate the domination of western epistemologies.

This has spawned a mimetic knowledge system where the norms of knowledge construction and its legitimisation is on borrowed terms. We do not engage with our own environment and culture. Happy with borrowed language and borrowed technologies, we do not invest enough in research and cripple our ability to think originally and construct knowledge from our own resources, relevant to our society.

As a result, development problems of the nation get mortgaged to imported and ill-suited technologies. For example, dam structures in India often modelled on the slow-moving rivers of the US, do not add­ress the problem of silting caused by the fast-flowing rivers of India.

Oddly enough, the insistence of a ‘national’ educational system enc­ourages prescriptive content and information as ‘knowledge forms’ that cannot be interrogated or be deviated from. Paradoxically, the discourse of ‘national’ concerns be­comes yet another way of colonising the intellectual space of the country.

This is aggravated by the bureaucratisation of the academic system where academic institutions occupy the bottom rung of a hierarchy as subordinate ‘offices.” Bureaucrats as the neo-colonisers devise ways in which education institutions are to be controlled. Excessive control and regulation does not necessarily mean better quality, and standardisation of content does not necessarily mean better standards. So the increased numbers of educational institutes do not add up to quality. In the absence of quality, education barons thrive, commercialising education.

In such a context, educational debates whether in the guise of ideological warfare or regulatory norms or legal frameworks skim the surface of problems, evading the pivotal question of educational reform — how can the nation foster the creativity of its people to trigger their intellectual and material development in sustainable and ethical ways.

The question remains dormant also because it is believed that it is enough to canonise its concerns theoretically in the National Curricular Framework (NCF) which describes educational goals as value development and building a cohesive society, fostering a national identity preserving cultural heritage. The NCF also emphasises indigenous knowledge, the development of aesthetic sensibilities and the interface between cognition, emotion and action, by linking learning to work and life.

Despite the NCF, learning operations in all Indian classrooms are verbatim memorisation of officially sanctioned knowledge available in the textbooks.

Guru & ShishyaHow can educational processes be liberated from their own ent­renched authoritarianism so as to stimulate critical consciousness and holistic development that the national curricular framework posits?

As a first step, there is a need to re-examine the existing epistemological hegemonies that inform the text books without which the spirit of critical enquiry cannot be the guiding force of our educational system. The dominant epistemological paradigm in the current educational processes is based on western knowledge systems. Colonising constructs of India have marginalised its own powerful knowledge systems, or brushed it off as an amalgam of rituals and myths.

The long unchallenged dominance of such discourses, have not only spawned questionable and spurious theories about Indian culture and society, they have unfortunately obviated the memory of our own history and knowledge systems from the minds of our own people.

The strength and rigour of Indian knowledge systems have been elaborated upon by several scholars in diverse contexts, quite a few eminent ones being of non-Indian origin, but are strangely enough rejected by modern Indians — a testimony of their allegiance to their progressive education! It is said that if one does not know one’s own language, it is doubtful if one will have the ability to acquire competence in a foreign language. Indians need to know their own intellectual inheritance and to be able to evaluate it in its own context as well as its contemporary significance. And in a way to understand the critical implications of the choices they make now.

This kind of a statement arouses mainly amused disbelief or vehement rejection. Why deal with what is obscurantist? An indulgent attitude prefers to treat traditional knowledge systems as interesting antiquities, objects as in a museum, cultural/ethnographic studies rather than knowledge systems. Even those who believe in the strength of Indian knowledge systems ask the question — why should one know of one’s intellectual inheritance? Of what use is it to us? Does it offer a better solution to current problems? If not, how does it matter if one knows it or not?

The SandHI Series | Indian Knowledge SeriesAll these criticisms stem from a very limited idea of what is rejected. The SandHI Series of articles that the Financial Chronicle hosted in the Know pages from April 2015 to June 2015 were an effort to give a brief glimpse of the range and rigour of traditional Indian knowledge systems. They suggest strong reasons for integrating Indian knowledge systems in mainstream education as opportunities for discovery, research and interpretation of our intellectual inheritance. This will equip students to critically evaluate the information available and to construct knowledge free from the stereotype labelling of knowledge as ‘traditional,’ ‘modern,’ ‘east,’ ‘west.’

Such intellectual decolonisation will spur original creative discourse. It will also encourage a greater engagement with the local context as many traditional knowledge systems that have continued historically to serve human needs have been preserved as community practice. Such knowledge has an inherent dynamism and innovative energy generated by the real life contestations of its users but is relegated the place of folk customs and finds scarce place in text books or any formal educational curriculum. Research shows how several of these folk practices tested by time and real world challenges are constructed on valid scientific grounds. Neglect of these traditions has been a loss to its practitioners and researchers.

Local problems create a new idiom of knowledge by compelling innovation and encouraging re-interpretation of traditional knowledge forms in terms of their contemporary relevance. A study of traditional practices will offer opportunities to evolve appropriate technologies to address problems ranging from every day existence such as water, food , productivity to major environmental hazards on a more sustainable, equitable basis.

This will also imply the re-legitimisation of traditional knowledge practitioners as equal knowledge partners. Currently, there is a hierarchical relationship between the main curriculum like math and language and a co-curriculum like vocational education, privileging the former over the latter and discouraging lateral movements. It also creates a paradoxical situation, wherein despite the emphasis on skill development and practical knowledge, existing skills honed in real world and relevant to the knowledge domain are not recognized because they are not encoded in formal treatises. As a result, there is a dearth of skilled teachers, the real practitioners for whom the skill is not just a curriculum unit with a credit but a source of survival.

A good example comes from the community of artisans and artists. Design schools can conduct workshops with artisans and artists but they cannot be acknowledged as teachers because they lack formally prescribed educational qualifications. This restricts knowledge transfer.

IIT KanpurAn interesting innovation to break this impasse is IIT Kanpur’s intervention with the toy clusters of Varanasi, the moonj grass weavers of Allahabad and the metal sheet workers of Kanpur integrating traditional production processes with improved technologies in ways that empower traditional artisans while also working out IPR related issues of community owned traditional design products and technologies and to outline fair-trade strategies for these creative communities. The Design Manifesto released by the ministry of human resource development in January 2014 builds on such initiatives, foregrounding community needs to evolve appropriate technologies, valuing local knowledge systems, and integrating experiential learning with formal theorisation, well exemplified in the design education curricula and pedagogies in IIT Bombay.

Such engagements of premium academic institutes with local problems and the traditional knowledge resources in creative communities should help steer Make in India towards tradition bonds. They reverse the process of epistemological schizophrenia caused by formal educational systems wherein multiple world views clash, those that inhere in the community and those that the academic institution imports and the ability to negotiate between them instead of being encouraged is suppressed leading to a sense of alienation. Ironically, having driven a wedge between the school and the community by the way knowledge is legitimised, educational policies of the state then expect the school to be a platform for community participation.

An inclusive epistemic approach recognises the significance of culture as the locus of knowledge and its use. This recognition has the potential to make knowledge transformative. The World Dev­elopment Report 2015: Mind and Culture, underscores the importance of culture, which provides mental models that influence what individuals understand and espouses integrating knowledge scattered across many disciplines to inform development strategies.

While the implications of such an epistemology for formal education in India appear to prompt a radical re-designing, it is interesting to note that theoretically at least, the National Curricular Framework recognises that “ideally, various learning experiences should make an integrated whole.” This seems close to the way traditional Indian knowledge systems entwined multiple knowledge fields. Fragmented worldviews and the domination of economic reasons have been partly responsible for splintering knowledge into ‘useful ‘ and ‘useless’ with deleterious impact on the individual and society. Socially, this creates a false division of the math type as bright and gifted and the arts type as frivolous and unemployable. This has had a reductionist effect on educational systems, by knocking off subjects deemed irrelevant denting the traditions of liberal education.

At the individual level, this creates what T.S. Eliot calls the dissociation of sensibility, the disconnect between reason and im­agination, the loss of in­tuitive cognition — the source of creativity and innovation. Increasingly, even the market now recognises the higher productive value of holistic cognitive capabilities over simply specialised skill sets as these become rapidly obsolete and fail to respond to complex situations.

Both from an intrinsic and an instrumental perspective, it becomes important to consciously encourage cross-disciplinary studies, specially between science and liberal arts, technology and culture. The pedagogy of such cross-disciplinary study needs careful designing. The challenge is to develop processes that transact learning objects in ways that stimulate exposure to multiple knowledge fields encouraging the abilities for multiple interpretations, for analysis and synthesis of different ways in which reality is constructed, broadening and deepening comprehension , making for more inclusive perspectives. For example, a musical instrument can teach music, material sciences, physics, engineering, math, history, aesthetics. Examples can multiply. This will reduce the burden of too many subjects, while enriching understanding at many levels.

Such cross-disciplinary organisation of knowledge would also, for example, enlarge the study of history from just a narrative of political events to the study of ideas and the development of different knowledge systems. It would also nudge the study of history from the refracting lens of contemporary ideologies to scientific evidence. This in itself would do much to liberate us from the political prison-house of communal identities and to discover a truly national identity.

Most significantly it would change the way languages are taught. Lan­guages are taught as me­ans of social communication and fall in the domain of culture or literature. Never of science or technical knowledge. Cons­equently, they are not regarded as vehicles of knowledge. Worse, they get confounded with the religious beliefs of the community to which they belong. Politicisation of language has spelt the death of several important knowledge systems.

SanskritA good example is Sanskrit — one of the oldest Indian languages which holds much of our scientific, technical, philosophical and linguistic knowledge from the Vedic to the medieval period. There is a growing interest in this intellectual heritage, not only to clarify India’s place in the growth of ideas, but also to explore sustainable, and locally relevant solutions to current societal, environmental, and medical challenges. A similar case can be made for other classical languages in India. A study of classical languages will not only unlock a vast reservoir of knowledge of significance to the contemporary world, but will unravel an inheritance of ideas that have much in common, again highlighting a shared identity despite manifest differences.

The reason that this sort of cross-disciplinary study that knits together traditional with modern knowledge systems, and traverses multiple knowledge fields, has not taken off is the difficulty of finding teachers competent to use integrative pedagogies. To nurture academic institutions in this direction, it is important to allow them academic autonomy. It is this that will, over time, build the three pillars of a strong knowledge economy: creative thinking, innovations and a holistic world view.

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a study of colonisation, Caliban accuses Prospero: “You taught me language; and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you for learning me your language.” A nation cannot build itself if it cannot think for itself. The SandHI Series of the Financial Chronicle reminds us that we have a rich inheritance of thinking in India. Modern India, in making itself, will be the stronger by building on it. – Financial Chronicle, 22 June 2015

» Amita Sharma is former additional secretary in ministry of human resources development. Right to Education

Maggi noodles ban imperils the livelihood of lakhs – Offstumped

Maggi noodles vendor in Ahmedabad

Offstumped“In a nation where there is no semblance of food safety in the unorganized food retail sector for the government and the media to go after a packaged foods corporate that holds itself to account through quality checks is reflective of an anti-enterprise mindset. … When the dust settles on this Maggi alarmism, it is the roadside vendor who sold Maggi, the street corner kirana store that stocked Maggi, and the entire supply chain of shopkeepers and distributors who will pay the economic price with their livelihoods for this collective folly of cynical politicians and opportunistic media houses.” – Offstumped

Maggi NoodlesHow many have reported falling sick after eating Maggi noodles?

How many complaints of ill-health attributed to eating Maggi noodles?

Questions to which there is no credible answers for in all of this frenzy over food safety and Maggi noodles we have forgotten if there was an imminent threat to public health or is this one of many routine quibbles over nutrition value of junk foods?

If the present controversy over Maggi has just made you aware that the two-minute noodles isn’t ‘the healthy food’ you thought it to be then perhaps you were more to blame than the Brand. Like any other fast food, packaged food or snack – the McDonald’s burger, KFC or Coca Cola – instant noodles was of course going to be of questionable nutritional value but what is with this HashTag alarmism and 24×7 news frenzy?

Did Maggi noodles suddenly turn unhealthy overnight ?

It all started 15 months ago in March 2014 in UP, when a district food officer collected samples of Maggi noodles from a retailer in Barabanki, which was then found to contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead more than its permissible limit. On appeal from Nestle – Maggi’s parent company, the sample was sent to Central Food Laboratory, Kolkata in July 2014. After 10 months, in April 2015, the Kolkata test results confirmed the presence of MSG, as well as lead in high quantity. Why would it take a year to confirm the findings?

Since then Maggi is facing tests in various parts of the country – Delhi government banned Maggi [on June 3rd] for 15 days and has decided to initiate a case against Nestle; Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu have ordered tests; Gujarat and Maharashtra are awaiting test results; West Bengal’s Food Department has called a high-level meeting.

What is MSG and if it is harmful at all

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is one of the most abundant naturally occurring amino acids found in tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms and many other vegetables and fruits. It is a flavour enhancer, which is either added artificially or is found in other ingredients of the products. According to reports, MSG stimulates the nervous system and makes food appear tastier. It is widely used in ‘Indian Chinese’ food.

An NDTV report quoted Indian dietitians and nutritionists as saying that there was no scientific evidence to establish adverse health effects of MSG. Prominent nutritionist Hena Nafis said:

“Recent reports of MSG having adverse effects such as headache, flushing and excessive sweating – which are typically associated with Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS) – have not been clinically established.”

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the addition of MSG to foods to be “generally recognized as safe”.

However, Maggi masalas were found to have monosodium glutamate without proper label declaration which is an offence under the category of misbranding. The Maggi packet says, “No added MSG”.

How harmful is lead

Lead, which was found to be more than its permissible limit, can cause can cause serious damages to internal organs including liver and intestine, said Vijay Bahadur, assistant commissioner (food safety), FSDA Uttar Pradesh.

Girish Shahane in his article ‘Maggi Controversy: Millions of Indians face danger of lead poisoning ‒ from Ayurveda’ calls the Maggi row scaremongering and another instance of bureaucratic over-reach, by highlighting that more than 20 per cent of our Ayurvedic medicines contain heavy metals including lead in amounts much more than what has been found in Maggi.

“Why go after trace quantities of lead in noodles when our air and water are poisonous, and noise levels orders of magnitude above the recommended maximum? How many food stalls, or even restaurants, in India would remain open if they had to adhere to prescribed hygiene standards? And how many have been shut down by the food safety chaps?”

Nestle Nestle in its defence

Nestle India claimed it has got samples tested in an external laboratory as well as in-house and that the product was found “safe to eat”.

Nestle is replying to people’s questions and concerns on its website. On the question of misbranding and presence of MSG, Nestle said:

“We do not add MSG to our Maggi noodles sold in India and this is stated on the concerned product. However, we use hydrolysed groundnut protein, onion powder and wheat flour to make Maggi noodles sold in India, which all contain glutamate. We believe that the authorities’ tests may have detected glutamate, which occurs naturally in many foods.”

On withdrawal of products which had lead more than permissible limit:

“We understand that consumers are concerned by reports that the authorities in India have found elevated levels of lead in a sample pack of Maggi masala noodles. The sample came from a batch that had an expiry date of November 2014 and is therefore no longer in the market.” 

That Kerala government still runs retail stores is the bigger outrage

Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation, also known as Supplyco, has around 1400 outlets throughout the state. The government has decided to temporarily stop distribution of Maggi noodles from its retail outlets.

Today when everyone – from consumers to the private companies – is arguing for economic freedom and limited government, why is Kerala government still running retail stores? The leaky public distribution system is an example of government’s failure as a retailer. Government’s involvement in distribution and selling is wastage of government’s limited resources which should otherwise have been focused on better governance and creating conducive atmosphere for business.

Also, the state-run retail business decision on Maggi has been wrongly interpreted as a government ban. 20,000 bakeries in the state have also decided not to sell any brand of noodles until the government takes a decision on this matter.

Arvind Kejriwal eating Maggi noodles!It adds fuel to Kejriwal’s anti-industry rhetoric

Even when the test results on Maggi were still awaited in Delhi, the Kejriwal government had already decided to initiate a case against the Indian arm of Swiss multinational giant forgetting perhaps this famous visual now doing the rounds on Twitter:

This Maggi controversy gives fodder to Kejriwal’s hypocritical anti-industry stand, which was exposed in his krantikari interview to Aaj Tak. His style of populist politics forces him to pretend like someone who is against big industries.

Why drag in the brand ambassadors?

A Bihar court has ordered that a FIR be registered against Maggi brand ambassadors Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta and arrest them. While Bachchan said he no more endorses the brand, Dixit recently met Nestle officials in this regard and said the company has assured her about the quality of the product.

TOI quoted Anirban Das Blah, celebrity agent, who handles the work of big celebrities including Deepika Padukone, Farhan Akhtar, Shahid Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor, as saying, “If such things happen, our contract states that the celeb is as much a victim as a consumer. Besides, we’re not investigating agencies. If celebs are being held for false promises, what about our politicians? The buck should stop with ministers and bureaucrats who give permission to sell such products.”

Times of India GroupMedia frenzy

Though creating awareness is the fundamentals of journalism, creating frenzy is overreach and uncalled for.

Why is Times Group going after Nestle? Is this a new business model to manufacture outrage to feed the news cycle? Times group, which makes money off brand ads, is now feeding public alarmism with it’s over the top outrage.

This government alarmism feeds into media frenzy, damaging a brand and an enterprise’s reputation.

What raises further doubts about the design of isolated targeting of Maggi is that so far there is not a single reported case of sickness due to consumption of Maggi. Nobody has been hospitalized or complained of damage to health on account of consumption of Maggi.

It is irresponsible to fuel a media frenzy against a food product in this manner implying an imminent threat to public health when none exists and none has been proven. This kind of irresponsible activism will have a devastating effect on the entire ecosystem that is financially dependent on Maggi.

It is high time we demolished this negative stereotype of a greedy enterprise when in fact an enterprise assumes financial risk, creates jobs not just within its four walls but across layers of society. This is not to absolve the ham-handed manner in which Nestle responded to this crisis of confidence in its flagship brand. But in a nation where there is no semblance of food safety in the unorganized food retail sector for the government and the media to go after a packaged foods corporate that holds itself to account through quality checks is reflective of an anti-enterprise mindset.

When the dust settles on this Maggi alarmism, it is the roadside vendor who sold Maggi, the street corner kirana store that stocked Maggi, and the entire supply chain of shopkeepers and distributors who will pay the economic price with their livelihoods for this collective folly of cynical politicians and opportunistic media houses. – Niticentral, 3 June 2015

A Maggi Noodles Auto-da-fe!

The Joe D’Cruz Case – R. Ramasubramanian & Aravindan Neelakandan

Joe D'Cruz

“You see … there is a socialist bourgeoisie here. It is a neo-Nehruvian creation. They want to picture and paint the human sufferings in the best possible colors and make a high-flying living out of it. They have to show themselves as fighters … five-star literati for the poor. They hate it when someone from the ordinary people, the real marginalized sections of the society, comes up and tells people to move on … to become prosperous, to claim their rightful and honorable place in the society. If the poor no longer remain poor, how can these high-class people make a living?” – Joe D’Cruz to Aravindan Neelakandan 

NewsR. Ramasubramanian’s report on why acclaimed author Joe D’Cruz is under attack

Joe D’Cruz, a Tamil novelist and a strong supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi—which makes him a minority among the Tamil intelligentsia—has been taken to court for his 2009 Sahitya Adademi award-winning novel Korkai.

The reason? The complainant Alagara Bharathavar, who is the leader of a fishermen’s association, alleges that D’Cruz has portrayed an objectionable picture of promiscuity among the fisherwomen of Tuticorin and the entire seashore area of the region.

But unlike the cases of Perumal Murugan and Puliyur Murugesan, both of whom were threatened and intimidated, leading Murugan to announce his “death” as a writer, there has been little support for D’Cruz from fellow-writers. His political position has isolated him.

The case against D’Cruz

The complainant has also said  that the novel had portrayed Christianity, fishermen, priests, and nuns in such a bad light that anyone who is not extremely familiar with the area will believe the contents of the novel to be true. The private criminal and civil defamation case has been filed by  Bharathavar, general secretary of the Meenavar Viduthalai Iyakkam (Fishermen Liberation Movement) in the court of Judicial Magistrate II, Tuticorin district, in Tamil Nadu.

The magistrate has admitted the petition and issued a summons to Joe D’Cruz to appear before his court on June 12. However, D’Cruz is not shying away from the confrontation. Born into a community of fishermen, he is a writer with strong convictions. Ironically, he expressed this not in the usual context of Tamil literature, but in the form of declaring his support to Modi in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections – a political position that clearly defies the thinking in literary circles in the state.

The backlash for his position

In a Facebook post, D’Cruz had praised Modi openly, saying that he was confident of the BJP leader ringing in fundamental changes and ushering great development into the country. One outcome: Navayana, the Delhi-based publisher, and V. Geetha, the translator of his Tamil novel Aazhi Sool Ulagu (Ocean-Ringed World)—which won a Tamil Nadu state government award in 2005—decided not to publish the translation. However, D’Cruz asserts that a translation of the novel will now be brought out by Oxford University Press.

As for the defamation case, D’Cruz is standing his ground firmly. “The complainant has included Aazhi Sool Ulagu along with Korkai,” he told Scroll.in over the phone.  “He has selectively cited certain paragraphs to suggest that the novels speak against fishermen community. This is completely wrong.”

The writer argues that those steeped in old customs are not able to tolerate the truth being told—having realised that their affluent lifestyles cannot be sustained forever, they have started attacking him in different ways. “I got threats from some groups even while I was going to receive the Sahitya Akademi award in New Delhi,” he said. “There were calls warning me that I would be eliminated on my way to Delhi. Now they have chosen to go to court. I will fight this legally and my legal team will devise a strategy to counter this assault.”

The writer believes that his novels have in fact drawn the attention of the world to the untold sufferings and longings of his community.  “Novels are different from articles,” he said. “A novel is a gazette of the times about we talk and live in.  Those who oppose the novels are seeing themselves reflected in the cruel characters. But even these protests are healthy, because this shall create a positive effect towards the betterment of the community.”

Scant support from writers

However, D’Cruz is disappointed, if not angry, by the response of civil society in general and of writers in particular. The support that the writers’ community in the state extended to Murugan and Murugesan when they faced intimidation and ostracisation appears to be missing. “I am not bothered,” he said. “But look at the double standards. I fought for Perumal Murugan and condemned the threats. But where are those so-called progressive writers today?”

Is D’Cruz’s avowed support for Modi the reason for the lack of protests against the defamation case filed against him? Even if that is the case, the writer is unwilling to change his political stance. An employee of a shipping company in Chennai, D’Cruz visited Gujarat 28 times when Modi was the chief minister. He says that he was impressed by Modi’s work in Gujarat, which is why he extended his support to him. “The results will not be known in just a year’s time,” he argued, weighing Modi’s performance as prime minister. “I am ready to wait.”  – Scroll.in, 8 June 2015

S. Aravindan NeelakandanAravindan Neelakandan’s interview with award-winning writer Joe D’Cruz

• AN : If I am right you have always been threatened with violence and an undeclared but effective excommunication. Right? 

• JD : When Aazhi Soozh Ulaku (my first novel) came, the first letter that came to me was from a venerable old man from a non-descript coastal village. Even as an unofficial excommunication was getting implemented silently, this venerable old man wrote: ‘May your mother be blessed for bringing out this grand literary narrative of our people’. Another letter came from Rameswaram – a coastal fisherman had requested me to come there and see their lives. Such people supported me. They invited me. They shared their problems in broken voices and soiled papers. But (those in) seats of power who were exploiting the innocence of the coastal communities went to great extent against me, from unofficial excommunication to petitioning my company higher officials. But the power of the common people and the trust and love that they gave me sustained me. So the threats never bothered me. (Getting emotional) 

So at that moment I decided to dedicate my life to the cause of our coastal people … I vowed it on my Aatha (mother/goddess). The only time I went to my village was when my father died. It was for his funeral. Till then I refrained from going there because I did not want to be the cause of a rift in the village. But when I came to the village I realized one thing. Even in the village where the vested interests thought they had stranglehold, the people loved me. The love and affection I have is not limited to the boundaries of my village but(extend) to the entire coastline of Mother India. I see all the diverse coastal communities along the entire Indian peninsula as pearls of different colours garlanded at the feet of Mother India. 

• AN : I remember youths from coastal community coming to protect you after they came to know of an attack being planned against you. Can you elaborate? 

• JD : About two years back (when the) Valampuri John award was given to me, the same elements which cry against me wanted to stop the function. At that time I started getting threatening calls. They spread the word that I would be knifed. I again decided not to come for the award function, not because I was afraid. But I know how these vested interest would use the emotions of some innocent youth of the coastal region and the boy may end up with his life shattered. So I decided not to come. But the organisers, when they came to know of this, they made all necessary arrangements that no untoward incident would happen. When a community lovingly protects you and when you are selflessly working for the people, then these threats do not affect you. 

• AN : But unlike left-wing writers you never made fame out of these threats which were far more real than any the so-called progressive writers faced. Why? 

• JD : From Kannian Poonkuntanar (Sangham Tamil poet) to Paulo Coelho, there is a consistent theme. When you follow what your inner voice tells you, when you walk the path of your highest calling, nothing can harm you and the entire universe will be at your service. This is a principle I have experienced in my own life. There are people who have to get fame through real and perceived threats. But I do not need either fame or name. I seek to live for my people. I love them. I write so that they can live happily, honourably, and with prosperity. So I do not have time to go publicity hunting with these threats. Perhaps that may be the reason. Even otherwise I choose not to get fame through the threats to my life. I love even those who make such threats. They too are my people. 

• AN : Your support to Modi brought you abuse and threats, can you elaborate on those days? 

• JD : When my novels came and when I got Sahitya Academy (award) some friends, who happen to be comrades, arranged felicitations and all. I attended them. I considered them as my readers and friends. I demanded no ideological allegiance from them. But when I opened my mind about support to Modi everything changed. They attacked me. A potential publisher who had promised to translate my novel, with whose translator I have worked for years spending my time and energy, went back on their word, after listing the translation in their catalogue. 

People would arrange some meeting and then suddenly it would be cancelled. Well … I underwent ostracization all of a sudden. But I told such ‘friends’ one thing. You being my reader or my friend does not mean I have to be a prisoner in your ideological home. If you think I cannot voice my opinion freely just because you give your appreciation to me then please remember one thing: A writer needs appreciation. But he needs freedom more than the appreciation. Between appreciation and freedom he will choose freedom. 

• AN : Do you think there is hypocrisy in the so-called freedom of expression crusaders when they remain tactfully silent when you are attacked … the recent one being only the latest in a series of attacks that you have been facing silently for the last two years? 

• JD : There is definitely a double-tumbler system here. There is no doubt about it. But it does not surprise me. You see … there is a socialist bourgeoisie here. It is a neo-Nehruvian creation. They want to picture and paint the human sufferings in the best possible colors and make a high-flying living out of it. They have to show themselves as fighters … five-star literati for the poor. They hate it when someone from the ordinary people, the real marginalized sections of the society, comes up and tells people to move on … to become prosperous, to claim their rightful and honorable place in the society. If the poor no longer remain poor, how can these high-class people make a living? 

The pornographers of poverty seek a pleasure out of the poverty of our people and make that a virtue. To me, on the other hand, literature speaks the soul of the people and catalyzes them to expand like the oceanic circle. So naturally these people will not come for my cause. Nor do I expect them to come. If RSS says it will wind up today, who do you think will be affected the most? It is these atrocity-literature mongers who make a living out of the urban myths of persecution. They even started inventing Hindutva in my novels once I supported Modi. 

• AN : What about the charge that you have offended Christian faith…

• JD : Let me make one thing very very clear. I am a practicing Catholic Christian. My voice is not against Christianity or Catholic religion. My voice is against the vested interests in the organized religion which are exploiting the common people. They say Catholic Church gave us education … yes, it is true … but where are the community leaders, and entrepreneurs and educationists who should have come from this vibrant community? They also gave us herd mentality and we need to break from that … which is not against the spirit of Jesus but in tune with what he taught. 

Another problem is my emphasis on our own spiritual traditions which are far older … like the mother goddess worship which is very much in our blood. 

I am today the voice of my people as the guardian of the coast of Mother India … as the owners and creators of this age-old civilization … from Ramayana to Mahabharatha to every Purana my people have a role in it, they are not an imported people. They have their roots in this culture and in this spiritual tradition. The fact that I am a Catholic cannot deny this heritage of our people. I hence speak their voice … the voice of our ancestors speaks through me. 

And how can that offend any religion? 

• AN : Evaluate Modi’s performance in one year.

• JD : When I voiced my support for Modi I did this for three reasons: One: I have experienced the change Modi brought to resource-scarce, earth-quake ravaged Gujarat. He made Gujarat an important maritime hub. So I know this man can do miracles because he cares for the people. Two: He comes from the lower rungs of the society. He knows what is poverty. In this I share an affinity with him. So he knows it is wrong to insult and exploit the poor as much it is wrong to glorify or romanticize poverty. So he will work for the common Indian. Thirdly: He has been the chief minister who wanted to improve his state. So he knows how the centre-state relation is an important factor in the development process. So only such a person who knows what it is to be a chief minister aspiring for the welfare of his state, when he becomes the prime minister can help the states to develop. 

… And I should say I do see a sea change in this one year. There is no corruption. There is a mindset change. 

When I hear cheap criticism of this man’s foreign tours I really feel offended. To be in constant travel is no joke and he is not doing that for pleasure but for the nation. He travels to strengthen relations where they exist. He travels to forge relations where they do not. He for the first time uses the Indian communities abroad to create networks. He is creating a network of economic cooperation and strategic partnership. This is a grand experiment he is doing. We should have done this long back and thank God for a Prime Minister who is at last sowing the seeds for a prosperous future India. And we cannot judge the fruits of what he sows now itself. Yet we can say here is a person who works hard for us—for you and me and our children—not taking even a single day holiday. 

Things may still be not fast enough as we desire them to be. But I have my hopes for the future of our nation pinned on the chaiwala. – Swarajya, 10 June 2015


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